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Inside the Friendship Between Joe Biden’s Daughters-in-Law Before Tragedy and Scandal

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Before Hallie Biden began dating Hunter Biden — the brother of her late husband, Beau Biden — she had a close relationship with Hunter’s estranged wife, Kathleen.

The two women even talked of getting ready for the inaugural balls together at Kathleen’s Northwest DC home on the day their father-in-law, Joe Biden, would be sworn in for his second term as vice president.

“We’ll get our hair done, put our makeup on with all the kids running around,” Kathleen told Washingtonian magazine in a January 2013 story.

(Kathleen and Hunter have three children together — Naomi, now 23, Finnegan, now 18, and Maisy, 16 — and Hallie is mom to Natalie, now 12, and Hunter, 10.)

Paul Morigi/WireImage;Official White House Photo by David Lienemann
Kathleen Biden and Hallie Biden
Paul Morigi/WireImage;Official White House Photo by David Lienemann

“I encourage people to make dinner reservations before the ball,” Kathleen added, calling on her experience from serving on the Presidential Inaugural Committee in 2008. “Go somewhere special — make a night of it.”

One of Kathleen’s close friends tells PEOPLE that celebrating the successes of others comes naturally to her.

“Kathleen is a devoted mother and a wonderful friend,” Karen Barker Marcou tells PEOPLE. “Her warm personality literally lights up every room she walks into, which makes her a great advocate.”

Marcou and Kathleen have collaborated on the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, in which Marcou serves as the executive director.

“Kathleen has done incredible work for the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, helping to raise awareness for the important work of providing pro bono representation to domestic violence survivors and at-risk children,” says Marcou. “We feel very lucky to have her as part of the DCVLP team!”

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Vice President Joe Biden taking the official oath on Inauguration Day, 2013
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Kathleen was also there for the family when Beau — born Joseph Robinette Biden III in 1969 — died in 2015 after battling brain cancer for less than two years. He was 46.

Beau and Kathleen were close, according to Hunter, 47 — who spoke about the friendship between his brother and his wife at Beau’s funeral.

“Your mom is the most fiercely loyal and protective person I know,” Hunter told his niece and nephew of their mom, Hallie. “She was more devoted to your daddy than anyone else in the world. She would do anything for him. And she did do everything for him.”

He continued: “Your mom shared your daddy with the world. The most important to me she shared him with Aunt Kathleen, his confident and coconspirator, usually conspiring against me.”

Hunter Biden stands next to Hallie at Beau’s 2015 funeral
Patrick Semansky/AP

Hallie and Kathleen’s lives were thrust back into the spotlight on Wednesday when Hunter confirmed he was now dating Hallie after separating from Kathleen, whom he married in July 1993.

In a statement to the New York Post’s Page Six column, Hunter said: “Hallie and I are incredibly lucky to have found the love and support we have for each other in such a difficult time, and that’s been obvious to the people who love us most. We’ve been so lucky to have family and friends who have supported us every step of the way.”

Their relationship is supported by the former vice president and wife Dr. Jill Biden, who said in a statement: “We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness. They have mine and Jill’s full and complete support and we are happy for them.”

RELATED VIDEO: Hunter Biden’s Estranged Wife Claims He Spent ‘Extravagantly’ on Drugs, Alcohol, Prostitutes and Strip Clubs

According to divorce filings obtained by PEOPLE, an attorney for Hunter claims that Kathleen asked him to leave their home in . July 2015 — less than two months after Beau’s death on May 30. Kathleen’s lawyer stated that Kathleen asked Hunter to leave the house on July 5, 2015 “due to his conduct the night before.” They formally separated in October of that year, and Kathleen filed for divorce last December.

The divorce proceedings do not elaborate on Hunter’s alleged conduct the night before Kathleen threw him out, but the court documents do include some explosive allegations. Specifically, Kathleen alleges that Hunter has been “spending extravagantly on his own interests,” which, she says, include drugs, alcohol, strip clubs, gifts for other women and prostitutes.

The documents also state that the family has “shocking and overwhelming” debts, including tax debt, maxed-out credit cards, and double mortgages on multiple properties.

Hunter’s attorney Sarah E. Mancinelli told PEOPLE in a statement: “Hunter and Kathleen have been separated for some time and are in the process of finalizing a divorce. Hunter loves and admires Kathleen as a person, a mother, and a friend. He hopes their privacy can be respected at this time.”

  • With reporting by CAITLIN KEATING and DIANE HERBST