The split of Bill and Melinda Gates, who are worth $146 billion, will probably be one of the largest divorce settlements in history due to the sheer size of their fortune.
Mr Gates, 65, is the fourth-wealthiest person in the world behind Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Bernard Arnault, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Court documents submitted by Mrs Gates, 56, a copy of which was published by website TMZ, revealed that the couple previously signed a separation agreement, which provides a framework on how to move forward with the divorce.
As the petitioner, Mrs Gates, asked the court to divide the couple's property and debts according to the terms of the separation contract. She is not requesting spousal support. Mr Gates signed the documents.
The Gates family resides in Washington state, where divorce law is governed by a principle called community property.
All assets acquired by either party during a marriage are typically split equally during divorce in the absence of a prenuptial agreement.
The couple run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the most influential non-profit organisations in the world that spends $5bn annually on fighting poverty, disease and inequality around the world.
If they split their fortune equally, Mrs Gates is estimated to be worth $73bn, making the divorce the most expensive in the world to date.
The Microsoft founder's wife filed the divorce documents on May 3 after 27 years of marriage.
“This marriage is irretrievably broken. We ask the court to dissolve our marriage and find that our marital community ended on the date stated in our separation contract,” the court document read.
The Gates began dating in 1987 and wed on January 1, 1994, in Hawaii. The couple have three children.
Here are the top 10 most expensive divorce settlements.
Bill and Melinda Gates: $73bn
Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott: $38bn
Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Scot split in 2019. Mr Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the world's richest man with a net worth of $197bn, paid $38bn to settle the divorce with his wife of about 26 years.
Mr Bezos announced he would retain 75 per cent of the company shares, while his former wife received a 4 per cent stake in Amazon.
Alec and Jocelyn Wildenstein: $3.8bn
French-American businessman and art dealer Alec Wildenstein divorced his wife of 21 years, Jocelyn Wildenstein, in 1999.
The divorce proceedings resulted in Mrs Wildenstein being awarded $2.5bn and $100 million annually for the next 13 years, amounting to a total of $3.8bn.
Rupert Murdoch and Anna Torv Mann: $1.7bn
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and former journalist Anna Torv Mann were married for more than 30 years and had three children together. The couple agreed to separate in 1998.
The exact amount of the settlement varies but Ms Torv Mann reportedly received $1.7bn – mostly in shares in News Corporation, Mr Murdoch's media and information services company.
Bernie Ecclestone and Slavica Radic: $1.2bn
Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone divorced international model Slavica Radic in 2009 after 25 years of marriage. The settlement was estimated at $1.2bn.
Steve and Elaine Wynn: $1bn
Las Vegas casino bigwigs Steve and Elaine Wynn were married to each other twice – from 1963 to 1986 and from 1991 to 2010.
Their second divorce involved a settlement to Mrs Wynn of $1bn and included $741 million worth of stock in Wynn Resorts, the company they founded.
Harold Hamm and Sue Ann Arnall: $975m
The divorce proceedings between oil magnate Harold Hamm and his wife Sue Ann Arnall were finalised in 2014, with Mr Hamm writing her a $974.8 million cheque.
Ms Arnall did not cash the cheque immediately and was involved in a court battle for a larger settlement, but ultimately deposited it in 2015.
Mr Hamm founded Continental Resources in 1967 and is now worth $8.69bn, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Adnan and Soraya Khashoggi: $874m
The late Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi paid his former wife a divorce settlement of $874 million in 1982. At the height of their affluence, the couple owned three planes, three yachts and 17 homes around the world.
Dmitry Rybolovlev and Elena Rybolovlev: $604m
Ending their marriage after 26 years, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and his wife Elena split in 2008.
Several years later, a Swiss court ordered Mr Rybolovlev to pay his former wife a sum of $4.5bn. But after negotiations, the final payout was reduced to a little more than $600m.
Mr Rybolovlev has a current net worth of $10.8bn.
Craig and Wendy McCaw: $460m
Cellular and Clearwire founder Craig McCaw separated from Wendy McCaw in 1998.
A few years before their divorce, Mr McCaw sold his company to AT&T for about $11.5bn, earning Mrs McCaw a $460m payout.