More light is being shed on the timing and reason for Bill and Melinda Gates’ seismic decision to divorce.
The two were married for 27 years prior to their announcement this week, which was a shock to many regarding one of the world’s richest couples, with a fortune of $130billion.
There doesn’t appear to be a specific incident that triggered their split, which a source told PEOPLE was the result of a ‘combo of things.’
The timing of the divorce, meanwhile, seems to relate to their youngest daughter, Phoebe, turning 18 years old back in September.
‘It’s absolutely because their youngest child is graduating from high school, and the idea was that they stayed together through that,’ the source said.
More details are emerging about the split between Melinda and Bill Gates
There does not appear to be a specific incident that broke up the 27-year marriage
‘They limped through until their kids were out of school like a lot of people.’
Their other two children are older, with daughter Jennifer 25 years old and son Rory 21 years old.
Jennifer has described the ‘challenging stretch of time’ the family are facing due to their parents’ divorce.
‘I won’t personally comment further on anything around the separation, but please know that your kind words and support mean the world to me,’ she wrote on Instagram.
The timing of their divorce, meanwhile, appears to relate to their daughter turning 18
The two were married in Hawaii back in 1994, several years after they met
Jennifer is engaged to Egyptian show jumper Nayel Nassar.
As for whether or not Melinda the divorce is going to get more contentious in the public, the source says not to count on it.
‘Nobody is going to want to invite more scrutiny because it’ll hurt their credibility,’ the source said. ‘I don’t think they’re so angry that anybody wants to take each other down, like you sometimes see. [Melinda is] not incentivized for that.’
Melinda pulled the trigger on the divorce on Monday, revealing in the process that a separation agreement was in place.
She said the marriage was ‘irretrievably broken,’ but was not looking for spousal support or child support.
Melinda Gates is not seeking spousal support or child support in the divorce
The two still plan on working together at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and are trying to avoid public acrimony. They hope their work will net them one of the world’s most prominent prizes.
‘They were really interested in trying to win a Nobel Prize,’ says the PEOPLE source. ‘So one thing that was part of this is, if it gets worse, then it ends that. It seems as if that was on the agenda, and that’s for both of them.’
In a joint statement posted to their Twitter accounts on Monday, the former couple said their work with their foundation will continue but their marriage will not.
‘After a great deal of thought and a lot of work, we have made the 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 lead healthy, productive lives.
‘We continue to share a belief in that 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.’
Bill, 65, and Melinda, 56, met in 1987 while she was working at Microsoft, the company he founded. That same year, Bill became the world’s youngest billionaire at the age of 31.
The couple married in Hawaii in 1994 and would go on to establish the world’s largest charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 2000.
Since then, it has contributed more than $50billion to causes including eradicating polio and malaria. The foundation has also been a major investor in coronavirus treatments.
The reason behind their split remains a mystery but Melinda has previously suggested her husband struggled balancing work and family.
Bill and Melinda Gates have signed a separation contract – but what is it?
In their divorce filing, Bill and Melinda Gates make it clear that they have no prenuptial agreement – but the papers make repeated reference to a ‘separation contract’ which will divide up their estate.
A separation contract, or separation agreement, is a legally binding document drawn up by divorcing couples in advance of their split in which they agree how to split their lives – including child custody and access, debts and property.
It is governed by contract law, meaning that either party can sue the other for breach of contract if the agreement is broken.
Signing a separation contract allows a couple to divide their assets by mutual agreement, rather than having to go to court.
For the average couple, this means saving money in lawyers’ fees. For Bill and Melinda Gates, it avoids a lengthy, public process during which details about their private lives an assets may have been revealed.
However, a separation agreement is not necessarily final and a judge may overrule it if they feel the contract is unfair to the children involved, unfair to one of the partners, or that one partner has not fully disclosed their assets or earnings to be divvied up.