Dear Readers,

Today’s second Ask Carolyn addresses separation as a potential tipping point for suicide and discusses the recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, both of whom were separated from their spouses.



Dear Carolyn,

I hear that I can get a divorce faster in some foreign country like the Dominican Republic. Is this true? A year seems like a long time to wait in North Carolina – 365 days – then the hassle of filing a divorce lawsuit that takes even more time. I am ready to be done with my last life and begin anew. I went to the Dominican Republic for my honeymoon. It seems only fitting to get a divorce there. Does this work? There are cheap flights in the fall. Besides, I am already engaged and would like to get married.


Carolyn Answers …

Use much caution, as this doesn’t work. The “full faith and credit clause” of the Constitution has no application to foreign judgments, including foreign divorce judgments. North Carolina will generally not recognize foreign divorce judgments based upon insufficient jurisdictional basis. One has to look at North Carolina public policy, and evading the North Carolina waiting period of 365 days and residency (domicile), the foreign quickie divorce generally does not work in North Carolina.

The case of Mayer v. Mayer from the North Carolina Court of Appeals is instructive. The case involves a challenge to the Dominican Republic divorce decree by a husband (Victor Mayer), who helped his current “wife” Doris obtain a Dominican divorce from her first husband, Fred. Doris visited the Dominican Republic for five days and obtained a divorce from Fred Crumpler, and both Fred and Doris were North Carolina residents. Neither Doris nor Fred had any connection with the Dominican Republic. Fred did not appear through counsel or otherwise in the Dominican Republic.

North Carolina public policy abhors hasty marital dissolution. Efforts to shorten the one-year waiting period for North Carolina have repeatedly failed in the legislature.

According to Mayer v. Mayer, “We cannot sanction a procedure by which citizens of this State with sufficient funds to finance a trip to the Caribbean can avoid our legislature’s judgment on the question of divorce. To hold otherwise would be to flout our law; it would permit domiciliaries of North Carolina to submit their marital rights and obligations to the contrary policies and judgments of a foreign nation with which they have no connection.”



Dear Carolyn,

I am in the midst of a divorce, and I am devastated, alone and constantly depressed. I lost my best friend, my buddy. I didn’t see it coming. We were married 20 years and we have a child now in her teens. I have struggled with depression since I was a teen, but this is about the most I can take and I’m not sure about that. Maybe I should just end it all. I have a few friends but I don’t think anyone knows. I can turn on that “bubbly” factor when I am out and about on occasion. It’s the voice in my head that I cannot deal with, and I feel tired all the time. I am 56 years-of-age.

Carolyn Answers …

You do need immediate and thorough help from a medical professional and do not delay. Get help, and get it now. Depression is real, and divorce and separation can cause depression to hit in a very serious way.

There has been a recent focus on suicide with the suicide deaths of Kate Spade (age 55) and Anthony Bourdain (age 61). Both Spade and Bourdain were in separations. Both had daughters they were co-parenting with estranged spouses.

Spade was found June 5, 2018 in her Park Avenue apartment by her housekeeper. Her husband and business partner of 35 years, Andy, had moved out to a New York apartment a few blocks away. Their daughter, Bea, age 13, spent time at both apartments. This designer of cheery bags and shoes had struggled with depression. She had talked to her estranged husband the evening before, but the content of that discussion has not been made public. What was the tipping point to cause her to take her life?

Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room Kaysersberg, France, where he was filming Parts Unknown, a CNN television series about travel and cuisine. His body was found June 8, after he missed a five-star dinner at LeChambard. He was the author of Kitchen Confidential, a hit. He had been separated from his wife, Ottavia Busia. He had a daughter, Ariane, age 11, with Busia. His girlfriend, Italian actress Asia Argento posted a message to Instagram expressing anger at the world and then deleted the message. The timing of the message is approximately the timing of the suicide. She later told The New York Times, “Tony had been in a dark mood these past couple of days.” Yet, on June 6, he had gone on a tandem bike excursion with his close French friend Eric Ripert. What was the tipping point to cause him to take is life?

Both had struggled with depression probably for all of their adult lives. Yet something tipped the situation to self-destruction. I find it interesting that both were separated. Both had minor children. Spade had had a discussion with her ex the night before. Bourdain’s girlfriend, Asia, had been angry about something approximately the night before the suicide. In neither situation do we know what the last discussion was. Could these discussions have been the tipping point to hopelessness. Both suicides seemed to surprise everyone around them. The warning signs were missed.

Divorce flings the stars out of orbit, particularly for those dealing with depression. Ages 55 to 64 have the third-highest suicide rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control. We know that the significant causes of suicide are anxiety and depression. We also know that relationship problems can deepen anxiety and depression. The break-up of a marriage can be the tipping point for suicide.


Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to Ask Carolyn at or PO Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in Ask Carolyn are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers 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 in your individual case. 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. Ask Carolyn ia a regular column, but not necessarily weekly.