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How Women Over 60 Can Protect Their Assets in a Divorce

By Brian Joslyn January 27, 2024 Family

In recent years, the phenomenon of older couples divorcing, commonly known as “gray divorce,” has become more prevalent than one might expect. Contrary to the traditional notion of long-lasting marriages in the later stages of life, the rate of gray divorce has seen a significant increase.

Brown and Lin’s analysis of U.S. Vital Statistics Reports from 1990 to 2010, coupled with data from the American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, reveals that the rate doubled during that period. By 2010, 27% of divorces occurred among individuals aged 50 and older, a figure that grew to 36% by 2019. Distinctively, Bowling Green researchers discovered that 1 in 4 divorces involved individuals aged 65 or older.

What is particularly noteworthy is that, more often than not, women are initiating these gray divorces. Despite the societal shift towards more tolerant attitudes regarding divorce and women’s increased financial and emotional independence, many women approaching a gray divorce find themselves grappling with concerns about safeguarding their assets.

This concern is especially prominent for those who have played traditional roles in raising children and tending to the home, potentially putting their financial security at risk. In this context, it becomes essential for women contemplating a gray divorce to explore strategies and options to protect their assets and navigate the complexities associated with late-life divorce.

In the following article, we will delve into various ways women can safeguard their financial well-being during a gray divorce, providing insights and guidance for those facing this challenging life transition.

Account for Your Debts and Assets

When going through the complexities of a gray divorce, women can proactively protect their assets by undertaking a comprehensive assessment of both their assets and their debts. Collaborating closely with a knowledgeable divorce attorney becomes crucial in this process. To gain a clear understanding of your finances, it is advisable to request a full disclosure of all joint and individually owned assets. This full disclosure will include a thorough examination of:

  • Loans
  • Credit card accounts
  • Home equity lines
  • Meticulous review of past tax returns and business debts

By obtaining copies of these essential documents and storing them securely, individuals can ensure they are well informed about the current financial state and potential liabilities.

One key aspect of asset protection in a gray divorce involves distinguishing between “marital assets” and “nonmarital assets.”

Marital Assets

These typically encompass shared financial assets acquired during the marriage, including:

  • Properties
  • Income
  • Financial holdings

Nonmarital Assets

These are considered the exclusive property of one spouse and may include:

  • Items brought owned before the marriage
  • Inheritances
  • Gifts that are specifically designated for one individual
  • Items bought, paid for, and used solely by one spouse.

Knowing the difference between these two types of assets allows individuals to strategically safeguard their interests and negotiate more effectively during gray divorce proceedings. This proactive approach, coupled with adequate legal guidance, empowers women to navigate the complexities of asset protection in gray divorce and secure a fair resolution as they move forward in their lives.

Create Accounts in Your Name Only

In navigating the intricate landscape of gray divorce, one crucial strategy for women seeking to protect their assets involves creating financial accounts in their own name. This is particularly important for nonworking spouses, such as longtime stay-at-home mothers, who may have dedicated years to raising children and managing household affairs.

Starting the process early is essential for establishing an independent credit history. This step becomes vital if a divorced woman may need to secure a car loan or mortgage independently. By building a credit history, she enhances her financial autonomy and ensures greater flexibility in making important financial decisions post-divorce.

For those in the process of a gray divorce, divorce attorneys often recommend taking swift action, including freezing or closing joint bank and credit card accounts. This precautionary measure serves to shield women from potential financial repercussions resulting from their soon-to-be former spouse’s spending habits. It’s also a proactive step to prevent unwanted financial entanglements and liabilities, as well as preventing your spouse from restricting all access to your money.

As the divorce unfolds, women are advised to revisit and update all aspects of their financial portfolios. This includes altering car insurance policies and other financial arrangements to accurately reflect their newfound solo status. By proactively managing these details, women can safeguard their financial well-being and ensure a smoother transition into an independent financial future following a gray divorce.

Make Sure to Update Your Will

One crucial step for women navigating a gray divorce is to proactively update and modify their wills. As the legal dissolution of a marriage takes place, it is essential to reflect these changes in one’s estate planning and medical documents.

In many states, the law automatically excludes former spouses from serving as trustees, estate administrators, or beneficiaries under the will. By promptly revisiting and adjusting the terms of the will, women can ensure that their assets are distributed according to their current wishes and circumstances, reducing the risk of unintended bequests to ex-spouses.

Beyond updating the will, it is also wise to review and revise other critical documents, such as the power of attorney and health care proxy. These documents empower designated individuals to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Given the potential complexities and emotional strain associated with gray divorces, it becomes even more crucial to appoint trusted individuals who can act in your best interests. Taking precautionary measures is especially pertinent in cases where the relationship with the ex-spouse post-divorce may not be amicable.

Relying on an ex-spouse for critical decisions regarding medical care or asset distribution after one’s passing can be a precarious situation. By taking proactive steps to update these legal documents, women can assert control over their future, ensuring that their wishes are honored even in challenging post-divorce scenarios.

Hire a Divorce Attorney

Maneuvering through the intricate landscape of a gray divorce, one of the most crucial steps women can take to protect their assets is to enlist the expertise of a seasoned divorce attorney. Hiring a divorce attorney is one of the most important parts of protecting your assets, as their guidance can significantly influence the outcome of the divorce proceedings.

Ideally, the selected divorce attorney will advocate for mediation or collaborative divorce litigation, emphasizing structured processes that allow both spouses to negotiate and find mutually agreeable solutions to their disagreements. This approach often proves more advantageous than resorting to a court decision, which results in a more amicable resolution.

A harmonious working relationship between attorney and client can enhance communication and understanding between spouses, ensuring that the divorce attorney is attuned to the client’s needs and concerns. A Divorce attorney becomes not just a legal representative, but a supportive advocate when going through the emotional and financial complexities of a divorce.

By prioritizing hiring a divorce attorney while going through mediation and collaborative approaches, women in gray divorces can exercise greater control over the process, protect their rights, and safeguard their assets. Choosing the right attorney becomes a cornerstone in this endeavor, marking a crucial step toward securing a fair and equitable resolution to the challenges associated with the dissolution of a long-term marriage.

Understand Equitable Distribution

Understanding the intricacies of property division during a gray divorce becomes crucial for women seeking to protect their assets. In Ohio, as in many states, the legal framework for property division is based on equitable distribution. This method is employed by courts when couples are unable to reach a marital settlement agreement through out-of-court negotiations.

Equitable distribution in Ohio involves a comprehensive assessment of various factors to determine a fair division of assets. Ohio courts consider the contributions each spouse made to the other person’s career, home life, and the acquisition of marital property. Additionally, they take into account the assets, income, and earning potential of each spouse, along with the living standard enjoyed during the marriage. Contrary to common misconception, equitable distribution does not split marital property and debt 50/50. Instead, it aims to achieve a fair distribution based on the specific circumstances of the case.

Navigating the complexities of equitable distribution requires a nuanced understanding of the factors influencing the court’s decisions. Women contemplating a gray divorce in Ohio can benefit from seeking legal counsel to guide them through the process and help them strategically protect their financial interests. By being aware of the nuances of equitable distribution and actively participating in the legal proceedings, women can work towards securing a fair share of assets and ensuring a more stable financial future post-divorce.


Let’s Have a Conversation:

Who initiated your divorce? Was it expected or did it come as a surprise? Which assets were the easiest to distribute? What was the hardest part for you in the asset distribution?

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Catherine Vance

Do not ASSUME you cannot afford a quality divorce attorney. If “he” controls the
money or has the high income, the Court can make HIM pay your lawyer. Find out.


“God bless the child who has it’s own” is a saying I adhere to. I never wanted to put myself in the position of depending on another person to put the food in my mouth or the roof over my head. I had a career, I had one child, I made my own financial decisions. I never married though I have had a long term partner for more than 40 years. If I wanted to leave tomorrow i could get up and go, no legal entanglements. As I said, “God bless the child who has it’s own”. Women need to protect themselves. That was my way. I’m happy with my choices. No regrets.


The judges in the state where I live no longer adhere to long upheld laws regarding inheritance, separate accounts, gifts, etc. Marital law has become social service law, with the spouse who has always been financially responsible paying for life for the one who hasn’t. Divorce becomes a contest of who can afford the most appeals. In my generation, it’s very often the woman who has been the breadwinner as well as tending all the home fires and financial planning. While women tackled more and more, men relaxed and failed to plan. The women I know who are my age are stuck financially and in the role of designated caretakers.

The Author

Brian Joslyn is a family law and divorce attorney practicing in the state of Ohio. Brian handles cases involving divorce, separation, spousal support, child support and more. Brian has devoted his life to principles of fairness and justice in the treatment of his clients and the outcomes he seeks on their behalf.

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