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Troubleshooting: Dealing with money owed, possessions, and legal stuff

It's hard enough to break up with somebody but to then have to try to squeeze money out of them that you're owed, or to have to put up with them messing you about regarding collecting their stuff or returning yours, or to even have to have legal dealings with them, makes it all the harder especially when they leverage it to keep their foot in the door of your life.

If you're in any of these situations, you may need to have 'low contact' which means contact only and specifically related to dealing with these situations and that's only unavoidable and necessary contact.

Example: Arranging to collect your stuff or finalising arrangements for the kids this weekend, tick. Arranging to collect your stuff or finalising arrangements for the kids this weekend, and questioning them about stuff you've seen on Facebook with their new partner, or having sex with them, or trying to get them to discuss the relationship all over again, no, no, no, no, NO.

Note that you can be professional and civil without being 'friends', taking your clothes off, or discussing the crappola out of the relationship.

Also note that if you maintain contact because you think that you can leverage it to get your money, possessions, or their amenability for arrangements, be very careful of the path you tread because the other party can see right through it, plus it's passive aggressive people pleasing behaviour plus it may get you deeper into an unhealthy situation. I've known of quite a few people who continued sleeping with someone to make them be nice or to get the money - don't sell yourself.

Before we get into nitty gritties, let's get the major source of bullshit out of the way first:

If money, possessions, or even legal stuff is really code for Opportunity To Engage With Them & To Seek Validation, halt right here and examine your actions and whether you're serious about going NC.

Secondly, let's get the ego stuff out of the way:

If your reason for seeking the money and possessions is out of a sense of righteousness and not letting them "get away with it" and 'the principle', you'd better start weighing up the cost.

I'm still owed almost USD2.5K by an ex. From 12 years ago. I kept in touch with him because I wanted my money back and in the end, the amount of time and energy spent chasing the money or suffering pain as a result of my interactions with him was not worth it. I'm not saying that I didn't need the money at the time, but where you let go of something, especially one laced in proverbial arsenic, you pave the way to something better. It's like when people declutter and give away stuff they don't use and experience abundance in another area of their lives. This is why companies and banks know which debts to and legal cases to sink their energy into - because when it costs you more than the debt to recover it, it's a waste and that time and energy could have been used to make more money.

Now I'm not saying it won't get on your nerves and upset you initially, but you have to pick and choose your battles and when you recognise that they cannot use it as a hold over you any longer and what it means about them when they don't honour an agreement or act decently, it just cements the already good decision that you've made to do NC.

You have to gauge your situation and judge it and make decisions based on what you know of the person, not who you hope they'll be or based on what you would do in the same situation. You might pay back money or handle a situation decently but they might not. You can go from here to eternity griping about why they're not you, or you can accept the feedback from the differences.

If you haven't started NC yet or have just started NC, this is the prime time to get the awkward discussions and arrangements out of the way.

Key things:

On money

  • Unless you literally haven't got two beans to rub together and they are prepared to pay you back immediately or agree to an installment plan / standing order and it's all in writing, be prepared to write off anything that's under a grand. Yes it sucks but it'll suck even more if you don't. I have seen readers chasing exes down for £25 or $200. It's not that I don't value money but I value my freedom, sanity, and peace more.
  • Before you write it off, if you're not NC already, ask them straight out: "When will you be able to pay me back the _______ that I lent you ________ {insert date} / the _________ I lent you for ____________?" No pussyfooting - get to the point. Alternative - send an email. Don't send a text though.
  • If they're claiming that they're going to pay you back but haven't said when etc, say "Are you going to be able to pay me back now? If not, when will you be able to pay me back and would it be easier for you to set up a standing order or write me some cheques that are post dated?"
  • Now you might think I'm a hardass but it's what needs to be done. Being broken up or playing nicey-nice and simpering around them isn't going to change the fact that you're still owed money. You either want the money back or you don't care as much as you say that you do.
  • If you have property of theirs to the value of what you're owed or that will cover even part of it, arrange that they will be returned when the money is paid back. See possessions below.
  • If it hasn't been clearly agreed or discussed during the relationship or at the time of the breakup or they've even suggested that it wasn't a gift, consider walking away.
  • If they are playing a lot of games, are abusive and/or a narcissist (or have tendencies in that direction) also let it go.
  • If you have to keep asking them for it, they're unlikely to pay it back, although you might get a small amount of it.
  • If it's a large amount of money, you will have to work out how far you're willing to go on this. You will have to evaluate: likelihood to pay, 'credit history', their general character, whether you can afford to let it go (it's all relative), whether pain of contact is worth pursuit, and even whether you could generate this amount of money elsewhere (decluttering and selling on ebay / yard / car boot sale).


  • If you have joint possessions, you both need to divvy up these items or ideally will have done so at the time of the breakup. There may be things that one or the other of you may be attached to so as neither of you can have everything, you have to split based on value / sentimentality or if there is legal stuff involved, inventory everything and let your mediator / lawyer / solicitor sort it out. Even if they help out, inventory everything now - it'll come in handy if they claim anything dodgy further down the line.
  • If it's their stuff and it's not big and unable to be put in the post / packed off with a courier /dropped off, box up everything and either contact them and arrange a time or if they won't, drop it off and place it in a dry area (porch) or put inside refuse sacks to protect from the elements.
  • If it's your stuff, email/call or even text and say "I can come by on this date or that date at this time and collect my stuff - which date works for you?"
  • If you're collecting your stuff, it's your responsibility to ensure that you either provide a comprehensive list of everything you need beforehand or that you check on collection and do a last walk around. Don't do it in dribs and drabs as it's annoying.
  • Don't want to see them? Send a courier or a good friend or family member. Do ask that they don't get into argument or start discussing your business.
  • If they haven't collected their stuff within 3 months, don't be afraid to pass onto charity etc. Believe me, when someone needs and values something, they don't leave it in their ex's house. Thy name is not Big Yellow Storage! Send them an email now saying to collect by a certain date and then you're covered off.

Legal stuff

  • If you have kids, a home, financial agreements, a business, you will need to consult with a professional - trust me it is a lot easier to do this now than to only start thinking about when you're angry because they've moved on. I have friends who thought they were with someone who while they were no longer together was being halfway decent - wait until they get a new partner and see how things change. You get a better deal and less stress if you act now. It's also like putting off the inevitable.
  • Find out your legal rights and have a plan A and B. For instance, I know a number of people who brought homes together and then broke up. One wanted to stay in the house or wanted to avoid selling because even though they didn't want to step up in the relationship, they didn't want things to be final.
  • Remember that if you are on a joint mortgage and you privately agree for them to continue living there and paying it, if they default, you are liable for the payments. Consult a lawyer/solicitor/mediator and find out your rights and what you can do, including drawing up a legal agreement and consulting with your bank. Things change - it's better to future proof.
  • If for whatever reason you cannot sell the property, it's easier if you both move out and rent the property. If the rent amount allows for it, consider letting it be handled by a property management company. If not, have everything written down - my friend did a lot of it by email and it covered off all bases.
  • Keep a record of every conversation, email, text, correspondence etc - you will thank you further down the line. Another friend's ex whom she'd cut contact with after he ditched her while pregnant, took her to court to prevent her from leaving the country with the twins that he'd denied the existence of and hadn't even informed his family of them until after they were born. She had every obnoxious and abusive text and email that he'd sent as well as records showing no payment of child support etc - you moved away to the far east a few months ago...
  • If each time you get into discussions it gets nasty or doesn't get anywhere, hire a mediator. Sometimes just mentioning that you're going to do this is enough to get them to cooperate.


As a final note, the less you chase something, the less that person perceives you as valuing it which means that they may decide to put a cheque in the post, deposit the money, or return that jumper that your late great aunt gave you. The more you move on and don't engage in conflict, is the more they realise that they don't have power. If they don't pay you back or cooperate whether you engage or not, it's because they were never going to. Don't worry about it - people like this will feel that loss in another area of their life so just have faith and go about your business.