Power couple Bill and Melinda Gates startled the public Monday by announcing they were divorcing. For decades, the mega-billionaire couple has been a powerful force on the world stage. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has an endowment of some $50 billion, the pair has reshaped global public health and development.

But now, after 27 years of marriage, the high-profile couple is calling it quits. They tweeted the news, stating that after “a great deal of thought,” they made the decision to end their marriage. However, the divorce won’t affect the family foundation. In a separate statement, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said the pair would remain trustees and co-chairs, saying that nothing would change at the philanthropic organization.

Here’s everything we know about the sudden split, including research-backed theories on why couples over 50 are more likely to divorce. We also provide information on how, if you’re in a similar situation, you can get an affordable divorce in California.

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What Happened to Bill and Melinda Gates?

Bill, 65, and Melinda, 56, met for the first time at a dinner in 1987. She was a Microsoft employee at the time. They began dating and eventually tied the knot on New Year’s Day in 1994. The couple had three children together: Jennifer Katharine, 25; Rory John, 21; and Phoebe Adele, 18.

On Monday, the tech billionaire released the following joint statement on Twitter:

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, 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 our 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.”

Rumors about Bill and Melinda Gates

Press reports claim they made the decision to divorce months ago, long before the May 3 announcement. There are several theories on why Melinda and Bill split. Some reports allude to Melinda’s hints that Bill had trouble balancing work and family, while others speculate that another woman was lurking in Bill’s life.

According to Time magazine, Bill and Melinda had an arrangement that allowed him to spend a long weekend with his former girlfriend Ann Winblad every spring. Winblad and Bill broke up in 1987, partly because she was ready for marriage and he wasn’t. They remain close friends, press sources indicate.

Court documents obtained by PEOPLE magazine show that Melinda was the one who filed the divorce petition. She reportedly said in the petition for divorce that their marriage was “irretrievably broken.” There is no prenuptial agreement, but Melinda is not seeking spousal support, according to sources. The court hearing is scheduled for April 2022.

Increasing Number of Older Americans Are Divorcing

Bill and Melinda’s high-profile split is emblematic of divorce trends in the U.S. as a whole. An increasing number of divorcing couples are older, studies show. Divorce among middle-aged and older adults is so popular now that researchers even have a term for it: gray divorce.

The gray divorce phenomenon, which refers to couples 50 and older, doubled between 1990 and 2010, with the rate rising from 0.5 percent to 1 percent per year. Today, more than 1 in 4 people getting divorced in the U.S. are over 50. While divorce rates have dropped among young people, they have risen among older adults.

Another interesting tidbit is that over half of gray divorces occur among couples who have been married for more than 20 years. Researchers wondered what prompts couples who have stayed together for so long to call it quits. They noted that midlife is marked by major life transitions, such as children growing up and leaving the nest. Careers wind down as individuals transition to retirement. Without the grind of raising children and long work hours, a married couple may realize they have little in common.

In the past, many couples chose to stay in these empty marriages largely because divorce had a stigma. Couples today are less willing to remain in these empty shell marriages. Indeed, it’s probably no coincidence that Bill and Melinda made their divorce announcement so soon after their youngest child turned 18.

Get Help With Your California Divorce

Today, divorce is nothing to be ashamed of. Like Bill and Melinda, perhaps you and your spouse feel you can no longer “grow together as a couple.” Don’t let the potential cost of a California divorce stop you if it’s the right decision for you. Quick and affordable help is available!

Contact A People’s Choice for immediate assistance with your California divorce. Our professional team of legal document assistants has helped hundreds of Californians successfully finalize their divorce. Call us today for more information!

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