For 15 years, it has been my job to deal with some of the nastiest break-ups in the DC Area.  At this point, I’d estimate I’ve played a hand in over 1,000, which I guess makes me a break up master.  Now, sometimes we’re simply fighting over the allocation of debt, and that is sad, but most of the time I’m dealing with complex financial entanglements, some of which involved billions.  At the end of the day, however, it is my ability to detach that helps me think clearly– it is just numbers to me– a business deal gone bad, and now  I have to unravel it.

Putting the emotions aside, it is actually a very methodical process that I have to go through to help two parties separate.  Here are some key points:

(1) Talk about whether the house is being sold or is one party going to stay and cover the expenses.

(2) Joint bank accounts need to be closed or frozen.
(3) Joint credit cards have to be paid off and closed.
(3) Beneficiary forms need to be updated.
(4) Safety deposit boxes should be cleared out together.
(5) Estate forms have to be revised while you immediately void any powers of attorneys or living wills that the other may have access to.
(6) Each individual needs to do his/her own budget, and the party looking to vacate has to start the search for an apartment and movers.
(7) Each and every day you need to bring home some boxes and start packing.
(8) Block the person from your FB page, change your status & delete unwanted pictures asap.
(9) If talking gets you no where, then stop talking.  Learn to disengage asap.

How long should this take?  Well, that depends on a ton of variables– but the more you can control your emotions so that they don’t cloud your judgment, the better off you will be, I promise.  If you need help dealing with the legalities of everything, consult a lawyer.  If you need help processing the emotions, call a counselor.  If you want to try and amicably resolve some of the joint issues quickly, call a mediator to assist with even just an interim agreement.  It is okay to ask for help– that is exactly why these professionals exist.

Many don’t understand how I can do what I do, but here is the deal– they say that many of us study that which we seek to understand the most.  Well, for the last 15 years I have been studying family dynamics, and it is precisely because I never understood my own family.  But after finally piecing mine back together it is clear that in a time of need, you need to lean on your family and let them help you.   That is exactly what families are all about.