Bill & Melinda Gates' Separation Agreement Shows 'Exemplary Job of Resolving Their Issues'
Bill and Melinda Gates' split announcement took the world by surprise — but judging by the documents they filed in court, their separation might be smooth sailing, a celebrity divorce lawyer tells PEOPLE.
Melinda Gates, 56, filed for divorce from her billionaire Microsoft co-founder husband, 65, on Monday in documents that indicate she and Gates have a separation agreement in place.
Randy Kessler, a celebrity divorce lawyer, explains to PEOPLE that that separation contract makes it clear that the parties have resolved all issues between themselves.
"Such a separation contract is an agreement between the parties on the resolution of issues which would otherwise be left to the court to determine," he says, noting the issues typically include division of property, support and child-related issues.
Kessler also says the Gateses divorce shouldn't have any significant impact on their estate planning — and that they've probably already considered its effect on their three adult children.
"They have likely already planned or distributed what they want their children to get," Kessler says. "Mr. and Mrs. Gates and their lawyers have done an exemplary job of resolving their issues privately and professionally and have therefore controlled their own matters instead of leaving it to a judge."
Kessler says the couple's separation should serve as a lesson to others that "despite how complicated and difficult the issues may be, it is always better to try to resolve it amicably and privately as they have done."
In Melinda's court documents, which were obtained by PEOPLE, the philanthropist said her marriage was "irretrievably broken," and that she was not requesting spousal support or child support — only that the court reinforce their separation contract.
She also filed an automatic temporary order setting financial restraints, which restricts her and Bill's ability to dispose of property or make changes to insurance policies, except as agreed in writing or as ordered by the court.
Bill and Melinda are scheduled to appear in court in April 2022, and their Alternative Dispute Resolution date is set for March 2022.
Their split comes nearly three decades after they tied the knot on New Year's Day in Lanai, Hawaii after first meeting at Microsoft, which at the time was a start-up.
In the years since, they've welcomed three children (son Rory John, 21, and daughters Phoebe Adele, 18, and Jennifer Katharine, 25), and in 2000 launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is among the largest private foundations in the world.
Individually, Bill Gates is worth about $130.5 billion, according to Forbes, and is one of the richest people in the world. He reportedly stepped down as Microsoft chairman in 2014, but still owns 1.34 percent of the company. Melinda's individual net worth has not been publicly disclosed.
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