Bill and Melinda are divorcing after 27 years of marriage – one of the richest couples in the world. Famous for many things but included in their legacy is their philanthropy and the amount they have given away to charitable causes the least of which is their generous donations towards the fight against COVID-19. Bill Gates who co-founded Microsoft is worth an estimated 124 billion dollars. The couple filed a joint petition for divorce in Seattle court this week and indicated that they have already reached an agreement as to how to separate their property.
Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and married Melinda almost twenty years later. Interestingly enough, I have not heard that there was a pre-nuptial agreement. There may have been a pre-nuptial agreement and the couple has decided to keep that to themselves. Pre-nuptial agreements are not required to be filed or made public. There is no doubt that whatever division the parties have come up with will be approved by the court as both parties will be left with substantial wealth.
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Bill and Melinda Gates Long-term Marriage
They were married twenty-seven years and in Illinois, this would definitely be considered a long-term marriage. With such a long-term marriage it is not to be thought of as Bill Gates getting a divorce and losing half his wealth since much of the wealth has been accumulated during the marriage. This situation should be thought of as an equitable division and fortunately, the parties have been able to reach a separation agreement as to what that equity means. If the parties were divorced in Illinois and they were to ask the Court to divide their assets, the law in Illinois requires an “equitable” division. Equitable does not always mean Equal. It certainly can mean equal and often it does – but it may not be equal. There are many factors to look at to determine if equitable means equal.
It seems more and more common for parties in their 50’s to get divorced once the children are out of the house and there is nothing holding them together. What does keep some spouses together is the inability to move forward with a life on their own or to divorce due to financial constraints. If a couple is having financial difficulties with their income(s) living together it would be a great challenge to manage two households with the same income. Bill and Melinda Gates, of course, do not have those constraints so they are able to move forward with this decision without financial pressure.
The press is reporting that Bill and Melinda Gates have put out the joint statement that “They no longer believe we can grow together as a couple” which is likely the case when a divorce is filed. There are many things that can fit into this statement as to why a couple can no longer grow together but it is refreshing when both parties have made this decision and can proceed with dignity and respect through the process. This is rarely a quick decision and is generally something that has been stewing for quite some time. As for Bill and Melinda Gates, in the Netflix docuseries released in 2019 called “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates” Bill shared things about their marriage and talked about things he wishes he would have done differently in the marriage.
Lessons from Melinda and Bill Gates Divorce
As Chicago divorce attorneys, we counsel our client’s to think about not having regrets in the way they handle themselves in a divorce. You want to be able to look back at the process and know that you took the high road and are proud of the way you conducted yourself and maintained dignity and respect. This requires a lot of self-discipline but is something you will not regret. This is another reason to look up to Bill and Melinda Gates as they move through this process without airing dirty laundry in the media or pointing out the faults of the other. They have children that will benefit and appreciate this and that, folks, is what matters. The world does not need to know you were wronged, you need to know that you are doing your part to maintain your dignity and respect and helping your children move through divorce feeling loved and supported.