The Divorce Power Shift: Important Takeaways from the Bill and Melinda Gates Divorce
By Catherine Shanahan, CDFA
My Divorce Solution
The Divorce Power Shift: Important Takeaways from the Bill and Melinda Gates Divorce
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that Bill and Melinda Gates filed for divorce this year. When high net worth individuals separate (think Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott), we are typically interested as a society.
However, the divorce between Bill and Melinda Gates so far hasn’t been as messy, dramatic, and malicious as other divorces between rich and famous individuals. It sheds light on the importance of shifting the power back into the hands of those going through the divorce and regaining control of the situation. The Gates divorce is a shining example of what we, at My Divorce Solution, strive for—shifting the power into the hands of our clients during a divorce and creating a level playing field through a comprehensive financial portrait.
You don’t have to be a billionaire to hold the power in your divorce
Bill and Melinda Gates happen to be two of the wealthiest people in the world, but you don’t have to live large to reclaim the power in your divorce. Forgoing putting the power into the attorney’s hands to publicly negotiate a likely multi-billion-dollar split, the Gates decided in advance how they would be dividing their assets. How did they do this? By gaining financial clarity before publicly announcing their divorce. Understanding the marital and non-marital assets between you and your spouse is essential before filing for divorce because you will be expected to make financial decisions from the onset. In addition to accessing financial documents, don’t overlook the importance of interpreting and educating yourself on the various options available to you.
You might be thinking, ‘Won’t my attorney take care of all this?’ Attorneys can take care of a lot of things, but they often don’t come from a financial background, therefore, leaving the financial details and analysis vulnerable to misinterpretation or identification. You don’t have to be a billionaire to educate yourself on the assets and debts between you and your spouse, but it is your right to demand financial clarity before filing or negotiating your divorce.
You should be in the driver’s seat when working alongside a professional, not the other way around
Society has trained us to think that attorneys are all-knowing because they know the law. While they are educated individuals and many are extremely adept at what they do, they’re not often well versed in the financial aspects of all assets and debts.
Many attorneys we work with understand the value in their clients seeking financial advice from a professional and entering the process with an understanding of the marital estate. It’s unfortunately not uncommon for couples to agree to equitable distribution without understanding the long-term ramification simply because they were unaware. Once it’s settled, it’s settled—there’s no going back.
Going through a divorce is already a stressful situation and people going through it may not realize they have a “say” in the decision-making process. This leaves them heavily reliant on various professionals to make decisions for them. Take it from the Gates divorce: financial knowledge is power. You deserve to have all the facts in hand so you can make smart financial decisions for your entire family.
People end up spending way more money than they have to when they lack clarity
There are of course real costs in a divorce. Financially speaking, the expense can be extraordinary, especially if you go to litigation. Whenever you contact your attorney to ask a question be mindful of the cost and then decide if you could answer the question yourself or if a different professional skill is required. You will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars by having your ducks in a row by getting your financial documents reviewed, assessed, and organized before navigating the divorce process. Having clarity on the economic component of the process will aid you in making informed decisions equating to saved dollars. On the flip side, not taking these steps can have profound financial implications that can negatively impact your future.
You have the power to make educated financial decisions with The MDS Financial Portrait
At My Divorce Solution, our mission is to shift the power of divorce into the hands of the divorcing couple by providing one or both of them with the necessary tools required for the financial clarity needed. That tool is the MDS Financial Portrait™.
The MDS Financial Portrait™ is a compilation and full analysis of data and financial records using the family’s key and supporting documentation. Divorce professionals then use this comprehensive portrait as verification of marital/non-marital assets and the blueprint for considering various scenarios, alternatives, and resulting implications of any financial decision.
By having this standalone document, our clients have a straightforward, objective financial portrait that gives them the power to make informed decisions for themselves and alongside the professionals who work for them throughout the divorce process.
Divorce is not easy, even if you’re Bill and Melinda Gates. However, it can be a less traumatic experience if you look to them as an example. Instead of fighting over every penny in court, they are coming to a mutual agreement on how to divide their fortune behind closed doors. This may have been impossible without the education beyond a net worth statement and by only relying only on the attorneys to negotiate for them.
You too can shift the power in your divorce with the help of professionals at MDS who will assist you with resources and tools needed to proceed with financial clarity in divorce.
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Catherine Shanahan is Co–Founder of My Divorce Solution. With over 30 years of experience in the financial industry, Catherine serves My Divorce Solution Clients as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CFDA) and trained mediator. A Professional Daily Money Manager, Catherine is also a former VP of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group, American Association of Daily Money Managers, Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA), National Association of Women Business Owners, advisory council of Support Pay,and the Association of Divorce Financial Planners.
As a mom of five and financial expert, Catherine’s experience with divorce left her wishing for better information, better resources, and a better process for the financial separation that comes with divorce. As a result, Catherine co–founded My Divorce Solution –the company she had needed in her divorce.
My Divorce Solution helps clients secure their worth and protect their wealth with the Divorce Financial Portrait. Our Divorce Preparation Platform is a data driven solution that connects your financial assets to the divorce legal system.
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