The well publicized pending divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates have brought the rise of the gray divorce to the fore. Why would they divorce after 27 years? Of course, we can only speculate.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft in 1975. Today Bill Gates is the 4th richest man worldwide. Malinda Gates worked as a product manager at Microsoft. They met at a trade convention in New York. The story is that there were two empty seats. Melinda sat down and ten minutes later Bill sat down. He invited her to a dance club and she turned him down. Months later Bill ran into her at the Microsoft Headquarters and invited her to dinner. He wanted to set the dinner for two week out and she said that wasn’t spontaneous enough and turned him down. He called not long after that and invited her out immediately. She said yes and they began dating. They married in Hawaii January 1, 1994.
Despite Bill’s extreme wealth, there was no prenuptial agreement. It was learned that after they were married, Bill would spend a long weekend at a beach cottage in North Carolina with his former girlfriend. Malinda was aware of this arrangement. They bore three children during the marriage.
The Gate’s founded The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation sought to address climate change and improve the health and education of people around the world. It employs 1600 people and has expended at least 50 billion dollars in support of its cause.
Bill and Melinda own several homes, but their primary residence is in Washington state. It is known as “Xanadu 2.0” is estimated to be worth 130 million dollars. The manion is 66,000 square feet and has a 20 car garage. They own other homes in Wyoming, San Diego, and Florida. They also have purchased 242,000 acres of farmland in18 different states.
On May 3 2021 the couple announced they were divorcing. Their Twitter statement said:
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship we have made a decision to end our marriage. Over the last 27 years we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to live healthy productive lives. We continue to share our belief in this mission and will continue to work together at the foundation. But we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple. In this next phase of our lives we ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
The same day, Melinda filed a petition for divorce state that alleged that her marriage to Bill was irretrievably broken. She did not request spousal support or child support as their children were over 18. They were already separated and had a separation contract already in place. She asked the court to adopt the separation contract and divide property in accordance with that agreement.
The value of their property is estimated at 146 billion dollars. Washington is a community property state where it is expected that the marital estate will be divided equally. Melinda will become the 2nd richest woman in the world, behind Francoise Bettencourt, the 67 year old L’Oreal heiress.
Trial is schedule for April of 2022 and each parties has retained a team of top lawyers. Many people believe that divorce is rare in long marriages. They don’t understand why they can’t work it out. It is a failure of something that should not have failed in light of the length of the marriage and the age of the couple. Bill is 65 years old and Melinda is 56 years old.
Dr. Todd Grande in his podcast reviewed the research and presented the surprising statistics on age 50 and over divorce. Dr. Grande cautioned that in many jurisdictions divorce statistics are hard to track, but it is estimated that the overall divorce rate is 45%. The rate is not constant. People who remarry divorce at a significantly higher risk. Gray divorced has doubled between 1990 and 2010.
Twenty-five percent of all divorces in 2010 involved individuals over the age of 50. The divorce rate for someone who has remarried is twice as high as first marriages. In couples over 50 the risk of divorce is 2.5 times higher than first time marriages. The statistics show that the rate of divorce declines with duration. Those who are 50 or older who have been married 0 to 9 yrs have a 10 times greater risk of divorce than those married for 40 or more years. The research demonstrated that demographic factors have a great impact upon couples that divorce. Lack of a college degree, low income, lack of home ownership, and unemployment are critical risk factors.
Contrary to another popular misconception about gray divorce the empty nest is not found to be a factor.
Others suggest that the rise of gray divorce can potentially be attributed to several factors:
- People are living longer.
- Both spouses are working and are therefore becoming more financially independent.
- The stigma associated with divorce has shifted significantly.
Statistically, gray divorce is and continues to be on the rise, and not just in the United States. Canada, Japan, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom have reported increases in the last decade as well.
Based on these factors Bill and Melinda should have been at low risk. This is their first marriage with no financial issues. They own several extraordinary properties. Dr. Grande observed that they are an unusual couple with amazing wealth and fame. He asked: what could have happened? He suggested some possibilities:
- The divorce was a long time coming.
- It is easier to stay married and couples just hang on.
- Something dramatic occurred such as an affair or other betrayal.
- The role of extreme wealth.
Dr. Grande opined that what keeps married couples’ lives interesting and exciting is prospect and journey to obtain something new. He provided the example of a person working hard to improve his education to qualify for a more fulfilling job, and perhaps earn more money. Such a goal could take a long time, 2 to 10 years. What if it only took ten minutes? What would you do? Get another degree? What if you got all the possible degrees?
The same is true for money. Bill and Melinda can have anything and have tried everything. They have the foundation, estates, land and a lot of money. Could Bill and Melinda Gates be bored and feel the need to shake things up – to journey into unexplored areas of their past?
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