The biggest lesson for me from partnerships that went bad in the past is “Keep the Emotion out of it”. It is extremely difficult, but very necessary if you want to navigate the stormy waters effectively.
It is all too easy to become bitter and cynical and to attack each other on a personal level. But sometimes even a business decision like how to split remaining assets is shrouded in emotion, which makes it harder than it needs to be.
At times like these, you probably need to seek guidance from a business colleague or mentor (Note: NOT family or anyone who cares for you on a personal level, and may be biased) to look at the situation from a clear, business viewpoint, and help you make the hard decisions with a clinical eye, devoid of any emotional attachment.
Sometimes a mediator can help to act as the ‘go between’ in order to keep things on a civil level. From my experience, it is all too easy to say the wrong thing or to be perceived to be attacking the other person purely based on the choice of words or tone of voice. It is a critical balance though. Very often, I would hesitate to get back to the other party because I wanted to either cool off or think about my answer carefully, but the lack of immediate response was seen as a negative (i.e. they thought I was holding back or hiding something, which can lead to further breakdown of trust).
That is why, even though we may disdain lawyers, they have their place in the world, to handle matters like this with impartiality and cold logic. Even if you don’t use a lawyer – someone with business acumen or counseling skills can act as a mediate or go-between to keep lines of communication open and civil.