Dear Readers,

Today’s Ask Carolyn tackle two cutting edge issues – FaceTiming with toddlers and pet custody in divorce. I would like to hear your comments on either topic.


Dear Carolyn,

My two little grandsons – Adam and Johnny – live in Colorado. They are 3 and 1. My daughter and son-in-law are willing to let them FaceTime with my husband and me.

His mom said that Adam had requested FaceTime with us on the way to day care that morning. So we set it up for 7 p.m. Denver time. Well, we tried it and it was chaos. The 3-year-old, Adam, wanted to run around the room and not cooperate. Baby Johnny grinned and smiled sweetly. Then the minute the Facetime was over, Adam demanded that his mother call me back. She called immediately back and we did a second very short FaceTime. I got a good night kiss that was worth all the confusion.

Given the distance, I want to make the most of FaceTime with Adam and Johnny. The whole thing lasted 30 minutes. Any suggestions?


Carolyn Answers …

You ask a tough question, but one worthwhile in spending effort to resolve. Forty-three percent of grandparents live more than 200 miles from their grandchildren, making Skype and FaceTime an attractive tool for contact. These guidelines also will work for a parent who lives away from a child. Here are guidelines I suggest.

Facetime when the children are fresh. Mornings are generally better for children. However, I do have one suggestion below if the night is the best time. Don’t try to cram this in at the best time for you. Think first of the little guy.

Keep the sessions short for the very young, such as your grandchildren. Five minutes may be a good length.

Establish meaningful eye contact. Position the computer device so that your full face shows.

FaceTime and Skype are like television for children, so this is about entertainment, not conversation. You are not likely to be able to carry on a conversation with a 3-year-old on FaceTime. Because a “screen” is associated in a child’s mind with entertainment, you have to make this a show. Remember, he is probably used to Bubble Guppies. Sing. Read a very familiar and loved book. Play with stuffed animals or puppets. One thing for sure – the experience needs to be interactive.

Make the scene child-friendly and colorful behind the face that the little one sees on the screen.

Now, the nighttime suggestion I promised. Read a good night story to the children, one that you read to them when you are together. If this doesn’t work, have the parent on the other end start reading the story, and then you join in and read a few pages. Or alternate reading pages with the parent for interest (you read a page, and then the mom on the other end reads a page.)

Finally, let technology be your friend. If you are using an iPad, there are tech strategies that will prevent the child from being able to turn off the iPad. Most devices will have some form of child control.

There is a blogger called “Mommy Shorts” who wrote a blog called Seven Stages of Skyping with a Toddler. That blog is an additional resource for you.


Dear Carolyn,

Can I get custody of my dog in my divorce? I moved out suddenly because of some domestic violence and out of fear. I left Champs, my terrier, behind. My ex will not give me Champs. What do I do? I want custody of my “child,” Champs.


Carolyn Answers …

Alaska is leading a new way for custody of pets. Gov. Bill Walker signed groundbreaking divorce legislation. A judge in an Alaskan divorce can and must take “into consideration the well-being of the animal.” The Alaskan court can order joint custody of animals and “child support” for animals. Rhode Island this very month has introduced similar legislation. North Carolina should get on board with this legislative trend.

Under North Carolina law, a dog (or any other pet) is personal property, like a chair or sofa – even though you consider Champs a member of the family. You have two options under North Carolina divorce law: (1) Ask for Champs to be distributed to you in the property division (or a preliminary property division called an interim distribution). (2) Our domestic violence statutes have a provision in a 50B protective order that gives the judge the right to order care, custody and control of any animal “owned, possessed, kept, or held as a pet by either party or a minor child residing in the household.” (North Carolina General Statutes Section 50B-3(8)).

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 25 to 40 percent of domestic violence victims don’t leave a dangerous situation because of pets. At least North Carolina is forward thinking regarding pets and domestic violence. Thirty-two states now have domestic violence laws on animals similar to North Carolina.


Send questions on family law and divorce to, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro 27427 or at Ask Carolyn’s comment section at

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.