Unpacking Kevin Costner's Surprisingly Messy Divorce From Christine Baumgartner

Divorces are never easy, but the back-and-forth between Kevin Costner and his second wife, Christine Baumgartner, has had more twists than Yellowstone.

By Natalie Finn Sep 10, 2023 7:00 AMTags
Watch: Kevin Costner Ordered to Pay Ex Wife $129K Per Month

And you thought Yellowstone was a saga.

Before Kevin Costner married Christine Baumgartner in 2004 at his Aspen ranch, they signed a prenuptial agreement, as many people do when at least one of them is entering into the union having already made a fortune.

But now four months into their divorce proceedings, it's hard to pinpoint anything they've agreed on.

Baumgartner filed for divorce on May 1, citing "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split, as did Costner in his response filed the next day. They both requested joint custody of their three children together, sons Cayden, 16, and Hayes, 14, and daughter Grace, 13.

In a statement indicating Costner's dismay that it had come to this, the actor's rep said, "It is with great sadness that circumstances beyond his control have transpired which have resulted in Mr. Costner having to participate in a dissolution of marriage action."

But so his participation commenced.

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The 68-year-old—who is also dad to daughters Annie, 39, and Lily, 37, and son Joe, 35, with first wife Cindy Silva, as well as son Liam, 26, with former girlfriend Bridget Rooney—noted in his petition that he and Baumgartner, 49, had a prenuptial agreement in place.

And then all went quiet on the western front, fans sounding much more concerned about the fate of Yellowstone's Dutton family than Costner's real-life drama.

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What was in Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner's prenuptial agreement?

The apparent peace lasted for about a month. But during that time, Baumgartner was supposed to move out of the sprawling Carpinteria, Calif., compound overlooking the Pacific Ocean where they'd been living as a family, according to the terms of their prenup as detailed by Costner's lawyers in a June 9 court filing obtained by NBC News.

According to the filing, Baumgartner had overstayed the 30 days the prenup gave her to vacate the 1.4-acre property, which Costner bought in 1988, a decade before they became a couple.

(And this house is not to be confused with the nearby 10-acre stretch of undeveloped waterfront that Costner mortgaged to finance his latest passion project, Horizon: An American Saga, a planned four-film series about 1800s-era expansion in the American West. The move threw "my accountant into a f--king conniption fit," the Oscar-winning director told Deadline this past spring. "But it's my life, and I believe in the idea and the story.")

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The filing further stated that Costner had paid Baumgartner $100,000 when they first married and another $100,000 on their first anniversary, as he'd agreed to in the prenup, and she was also due $1 million after filing for divorce.

The prenup guaranteed Baumgartner $200,000 for a deposit on a new home, plus money for property taxes and homeowner's insurance for a year, the filing detailed, as well as $30,000 a month in child support. The filing further stated that Costner had offered her thousands more to help with moving expenses, as well as an additional $38,000 per month on top of the agreed-upon child support payments.

"Kevin has acted in good faith," the filing stated, "and has done everything in his power to make the transition as seamless as possible."

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In a declaration included with the filing, per NBC News, Costner detailed how hammering out potential post-split living arrangements had been a priority for him before they ever swapped vows.

"I was married once before," the actor stated, "and, upon separation, l found myself without a home base and unable to live in my own home. I never wanted this to happen again. Because of the nature of my work, I am frequently out of town; it is therefore particularly important to me that when I am home, I have a home to go to."

Costner met Baumgartner at a golf course in the early '90s but didn't start dating his future second wife until 1998 after running into her at a restaurant. "We exchanged numbers, and I told her that I would—did she mind if I called her in two weeks," he later told People. "I did not realize that was like an insult to a woman."

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Before they wed on Sept. 25, 2004, the declaration continued, "l made it clear to her that I would not marry again without clarity that my separate property residences would remain mine to live in no matter what happened in our marriage. Christine acknowledged to me at the time that she understood the importance of this to me and she agreed to this provision."

Calling the legal basis for Costner's request to vacate "all but nonexistent," Baumgartner's attorney John Rydell countered in a June 14 court filing, obtained by Insider, that the actor was seeking "to kick Christine and their three children out of the house that the children have lived in for their entire lives."

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How much child support did Kevin Costner's wife ask for?

A week after the proceedings first publicly took a turn for the complicated, Baumgartner requested $248,000 per month in child support.

Cayden, Hayes and Grace Costner were used to an "exceptionally high" standard of living and a forensic accountant had so far determined that Costner's monthly cash flow amounted to upward of $1.5 million, her lawyers stated in court documents filed June 16 in Santa Barbara Superior Court and obtained by NBC News

"I realize that our lifestyle is extraordinary," Baumgartner stated in a declaration also filed June 16, per NBC. "I appreciate how very blessed we are to live this way. It's important to not only to provide a warm and comfortable home for our children but to also teach them family values and gratitude."

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She had been a stay-at-home mom since their eldest child, Cayden, was born in 2007, Baumgartner stated, and her "marital lifestyle, including that of the children, was consistent with Kevin's longterm exceedingly high income. My primary goal is to make sure that the children continue to thrive, and when they are with me, to live in a home and lifestyle that is at least somewhat comparable to that of their father.

The requested amount may seem high, her attorneys acknowledged in their June 16 filing, "but her request is in accord with California statutory and case law. This is precisely the type of case that demands an upward deviation so that the children will at least approach the standard of living of their father."

Baumgartner stated in her declaration that she hadn't touched any of the money Costner had previously paid her as dictated by the prenup, alleging his goal was "to get me to tap into this money, so he can argue that I've waived my right to challenge the Premarital Agreement."

Aside from that money, the former model and handbag designer said she had $50,000 in the bank and no other assets or income.

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How did Christine Baumgartner's alleged plastic surgery expenses come up?

Pushing back against the $248,000 child support request, Costner's lawyers called the amount "highly inflated and unsubstantiated" in a June 28 court filing obtained by E! News.

"Providing the minor children with more than bare necessities does not require providing ludicrous extravagance designed to primarily benefit the supported parent," the filing stated. It further alleged, "Christine allocates 60 [percent] of expenses such as private trainer, unallocated credit-card expenses, and her plastic surgery to the minor children without any explanation or basis. The children do not use the services of private trainers, only Christine does. The plastic surgery expenses of $188,500/month belong to Christine—not the children."

The filing continued, Baumgartner "spent considerable amounts of money on herself and on persons other than our children and for purposes that have nothing to do with our children. This would include, for example, Christine's clothing and jewelry purchases, spa treatments and personal care and gifts to friends and family members."

Reps and lawyers for Costner and Baumgartner have not responded to E! News' requests for comment.

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How much was Kevin Costner making from Yellowstone?

Costner's "gross cash flow available for support" each month was not the $1.5 million Christine's forensic accountant arrived at, but rather $123,620, the June 28 filing stated.

Calling Costner's Yellowstone earnings as a star and executive producer "a complete aberration" and "once-in-a-lifetime event," the filing detailed that for 30 months—through June 30, 2023— his average cash flow was $1.31 million, but without the show it was $468,136.


Testifying at a hearing Sept. 1, per Fox News Digital, Costner said that he was offered $24 million to do season five, six and seven of Yellowstone, but negotiations broke down—mainly over scheduling conflicts with his Horizon project—and the hit show will instead end after the upcoming second half of season five.

Meanwhile, Costner extended an offer of $51,940 per month, plus 100 percent of the kids' health insurance, private school tuition for Grace (the only child who will need it), extracurricular activities, hunting club fees and Cayden's car expenses, according to the June 28 filing.

In an Aug. 24 court filing obtained by E! News, Costner's attorneys state that Baumgartner's lawyers rejected that amount and countered in a July 5 filing with $217,300.

On July 12, a judge temporarily awarded Baumgartner $129,755 in monthly child support.

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What have Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner said about getting divorced?

In a more personal jab at Costner, Baumgartner alleged in her June 16 declaration, per Insider, that the Dances With Wolves star broke the news of their divorce to their kids on his own over Zoom.

"After a 24-year relationship, from his hotel room in Las Vegas, Kevin told our three children that we were getting divorced over a 10-minute Zoom call without me present," she stated in the filing. "I am still confused by his motivation to do this via a very short Zoom session, especially since he was planning on being home five days later."

Baumgartner also insinuated in the declaration that there was much more to this story.

"I have avoided being public about the reasons for our divorce," she stated. "I have done this to protect our family's privacy. I did not pressure Kevin to leave the Yellowstone show. Kevin's public attacks on me are harmful for our family. I believe they are meant to pressure me to move out without a temporary child support order in place."

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Costner, in turn, accused Baumgartner in the June 28 court filing of purposely trying to paint him "in a negative light and to create a sound bite for the media to pick up," according to Yahoo. "The media did pick it up, for our children to read."

According to Costner's account in the filing, Baumgartner told him a month before she filed that she wanted a divorce. He did not, he recalled, but agreed at the time to tell the kids together once they decided what to say. But she "would not commit to saying to our children that she would be moving out," Costner stated, and as the weeks went by he tired of being "in limbo" and instructed his lawyer to file for divorce on May 2. Baumgartner's attorney got a heads-up from his counsel, and Costner arranged for a video chat with his kids on April 30.

He broke the news over FaceTime from St. George, Utah, not Las Vegas, he stated in the filing, which "was not ideal, but this is the only way I could think of to avoid a conflict between us in front of our children."

When did Kevin Costner's wife move out?

A minute order obtained July 6 by NBC News noted that a judge had denied Baumgartner's request to have her move-out deadline extended to Aug. 31 and ordered her to "unconditionally vacate" the Carpinteria house by July 31—and not July 13, as Costner requested.

Baumgartner has since leased a residence for $40,000 a month, according to the Aug. 24 court filing, in which Costner's attorney argued the actor—having already paid $105,000—shouldn't be ordered to pay any more of his future ex-wife's legal fees because her claims to be unable to afford them were "not credible."

The filing noted that Baumgartner testified in an August deposition that her brother gave her $80,000 for her security deposit and first month's rent, and her "current boyfriend" gave her $20,000. 

Where does Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner's child support battle stand now?

Costner's lawyers accused Baumgartner of waging "relentless 'jihad' against Kevin's character" by alleging he's refusing to pay sufficient child support, per an Aug. 30 court filing obtained by E! News. Calling her subsequent support demand of $168,315 per month "mind-boggling," the filing alleged Baumgartner's claims were "a smoke screen to deflect attention from her lack of candor regarding her own financial situation."

In court on Aug. 31, Baumgartner testified that family friend Josh Connor had given her $20,000. But he was not her boyfriend, she said, per Fox News Digital, and she gave $10,000 to her mother and returned the other half to Connor. (She and Connor were photographed together in Hawaii in July, sparking romance rumors. Baumgartner testified that it was a group trip and their daughters were "best friends.")


The next day, Judge Thomas Anderle lowered Costner's child support payment to $63,209, writing in his decision that anything greater would be "disguised spousal support," per Fox New Digital.

"You know, when you have a life that long with somebody, there is no winner...And it's this big, crazy thing called life and how it unravels so quickly," Costner told the outlet after the hearing. "One minute you feel like you're on top of the world, and then you realize how vulnerable you are."

Baumgartner was "an incredible mom," the Field of Dreams star added. "We will figure it out and we'll share. We've just got to kind of convalesce right now."

The pair are due back in court in November when Baumgartner's challenge to the validity of their prenuptial agreement is set to go to trial.

(E! and NBC News are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)

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