Ask Carolyn…


Dear Readers,

Today’s first Ask Carolyn is on disability and just wants what the court awarded. The second is from The Sound of the Beep involving an inspector who filed a property lien. Fifteen Rhino readers seek a solution!



Dear Carolyn,

I got a settlement from my ex-wife in Superior Court in January 2017 after she ran away with $80,000 of our money. I was awarded $15,000, and it was to be paid to me in May of this year. My ex-wife’s attorney was disbarred, and she now has a new attorney. My attorney that helped me with my settlement is dragging his feet after almost two years and numerous visits to his office. I still can’t get my settlement.

Should I send my ex-wife a bill? She has the money in her retirement account. I can’t afford another attorney at $225 an hour.

My income is about $1,000 a month Social Security disability check, and I have a house payment of $800 a month plus all the other bills that go with living day by day.

What is my course of action on the pending issue? Can you help me?


Carolyn Answers …

I am a little perplexed by the facts of your letter stating Superior Court. Property divisions in divorce are handled in District Court. Since the clerk of Superior Court files all court documents, I have to believe you are looking at a District Court judgment filed by the clerk of Superior Court. If this is incorrect, please send the judgment to me.

Your solution is contempt of court. Your lawyer should do this for you, and you possibly will be awarded your attorney fees for the contempt. About the slow lawyer, perhaps a call from me would spur the lawyer to action. Send the Rhino Times the lawyer’s name and I’ll make an inquiry.

Is this case in Guilford County?

Getting the award from the retirement account if the account is a 401K should be doable but technical, and requires a family lawyer with knowledge of Internal Revenue Code Section 414(p) and perhaps qualified domestic relations orders. I would urge you to do the contempt yourself, but the technicalities of getting funds in marital settlements from a retirement account are technical.

If this doesn’t work, contact me through the Rhino Times again.



Dear Carolyn,

(From the July 6 Sound of the Beep.) This is a question about 15 of us would like the editor to respond to. Someone asks for a free inspection to find a problem. They never found it. They never came to do anything more. Never signed any papers of any kind in any shape or form, and the job was not done. He was asked to leave. He didn’t leave. And, then, they, unbeknownst to the party involved, apparently an attorney or someone has filed a lien against this person’s property to try to collect for a job not done that they had to hire someone else to do and pay them the following day. Now, our question is this, how can that possibly be legal?


Carolyn Answers …

The editor referred this to me since it is a legal question. I am a family lawyer, but I hopefully can send these 15 readers in the right direction for a solution. There either is a misunderstanding or a crook afoot that needs to be stopped. The law at issue appears to be a lien on real property law, which is narrowly written to apply to certain situations.

North Carolina Chapter 44-A, Article 2 covers the area of liens on real property. There are five circumstances that a provider can legitimately file a lien on a person’s real property. These four circumstances are as follows: (1) labor provided, (2) materials provided, (3) equipment provided, (4) design services provided and (5) survey services provided. From the Beep question, it sounds like the only category that could be involved is labor provided. Liens have to be filed by the provider within 120 days of the service or materials provided in the county where the property is. A legal action to enforce the lien must be started within 180 days according to the statute.

One fact you do not relate is whether there is a written contract or writing of someone kind. That could affect this answer. I am writing this assuming everything is verbal between the inspector provider and the land owner.

Of concern to me is that under the facts the inspection was supposed to be free, and the inspector did not perform. In fact, someone else actually performed. I do not see why a services provider would have a legitimate claim under these facts. I doubt this provider will file the lawsuit at the 180-day mark as surely a lawyer will be looking at the facts for this provider and infuse some judgment.

Here’s what I would do:

Send a certified letter to the provider registering your complaint and asking him to cancel the lien within 10 days. State all of your facts and reasons.

If the lien is not canceled within 10 days, I would seek a grievance with any professional licensing agency.

If you are sued, you must hire a lawyer skilled in the handling of real property liens.

I would like to know what happens here, and good luck.


Send your questions on family law and divorce mattter to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at Please do not put identifying information in your questions. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at Ask_Carolyn.


Note that answers are intended to provide general legal information and are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.