Many couples acquire several high-value assets throughout the course of their marriage, making property division more difficult upon divorce. However, Bill and Melinda Gates give new meaning to the phrase ‘high asset divorce.’ The former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, with a reported net worth of at least $134 billion, and his wife Melinda recently announced that they would be ending their 27-year marriage.
The couple, who married in 1994, reportedly does not have a prenuptial agreement in place. However, when Melinda filed for divorce earlier this month, she requested the court to adhere to a separation agreement they apparently put in place to address the issue of property division in the divorce. Separation agreements differ from prenups in that they are part of the divorce, while prenups are agreed to before you get married.
How does the property division process work?
Both spouses will need to ensure that there is a full and fair disclosure of all assets and debts belonging to the estate. Once all the estate’s assets have been identified, each asset will have to be categorized as marital or separate property. All property will than be subjected to a valuation.
Experts say that separation agreements, like the one alleged here, may take up to a year to finalize in high asset divorces. However, if spouses can agree on a separation agreement, they can avoid lengthy and contentious hearings in court. The separation agreement (or property settlement agreement) may then become legally binding if it is incorporated into your divorce decree. Separation agreements can also address child support, alimony, and other divorce issues.
If there is no separation agreement, the courts will decide how to best divide up the assets. In Michigan, an equitable distribution state, the court will distribute the marital property fairly and equitably between the divorcing spouses. This does not mean the property will be distributed equally. Courts will consider various factors, including length of the marriage and earning capacities of each spouse, to decide how best to proceed.
Experienced attorneys in the Michigan area can help you handle all aspects of your high asset divorce. It may be in your best interest to consult an attorney as soon as you decide to get divorced for guidance during every step of the divorce process.