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Why Can’t Kevin Costner “Hold On to as Much as He Can” in His Divorce?

Kevin Costner has made it his goal to retain as much of his estimated $250 million fortune as possible during his divorce from his estranged wife. 

According to sources close to the couple, Costner “wants to hold on to as much as he can” during his split. While that’s an understandable desire, it may not go over well in court. It certainly has not gone over well with Christine Costner, nee Baumgartner, his soon-to-be-ex. 

The couple, who have been married for nearly 19 years, have already filed multiple documents in court as they dispute matters related to their split. According to these papers, the couple had a prenuptial agreement when they married in 2004. Under this contract, Christine would be entitled to just $1.4 million. 

While this is no small sum, it is just a fraction of what the couple usually spends. Christine submitted a breakdown of Kevin’s income and spending to the court when she submitted her petition for child support. Apparently, Kevin earned an average of $2 million per month in 2022. Additionally, the family accrued $6.6 million in expenses for the year. 

A flat $1.4 million is a significant reduction from these lofty heights. In her petition for child support, Christine argued that this amount would not leave her with the funds to support the couple’s three children according to their accustomed lifestyle. As such, she requested $248,000 in monthly child support and states that this figure is still “less than the amount needed to maintain the children in their accustomed lifestyle.” 

Kevin has made it clear he is not going to acquiesce to Christine’s demands without legal intervention. Instead, he successfully petitioned the court to order Christine from their former joint home in Santa Barbara as per their prenuptial agreement. It appears likely he will continue fighting to have the contract enforced and state guidelines on child support followed. However, whether he will succeed is still up in the air.

Dividing Significant Assets in California Divorces

California is one of a few states that enforce community property laws during divorce. These laws grant both spouses equal ownership of assets earned and acquired during their marriage. They also require divorcing couples to split these assets equally. Under this law, Kevin’s desire to “hold on” to most of his property is not directly possible.

The legal justification for community property laws is simple. Married couples are intended to support each other and contribute to their shared household. While some contributions do not have a direct financial value, they still improve the couple’s overall status. 

For instance, if one spouse chooses to stay home and raise the kids, the other has significantly more freedom to pursue their career. While the stay-at-home partner may not have earned the money themselves, the promotions, raises, and bonuses their spouse earns rely on the work they are doing at home. 

While this justification makes sense, community property laws do make high-asset divorces more complex. Couples with significant assets have much more to divide, which takes time. Additionally, these spouses frequently have property that is harder to value and divide fairly. 

For example, the Costners have spent the last 18 years living in a Santa Barbara home worth an estimated $145 million. Homes these expensive can fluctuate in value significantly and may take years to sell, making it harder to divide them fairly without expert help. As such, high-asset divorces must be handled carefully to achieve a fair outcome. 

Impact of Prenuptial Agreements on Asset Division

Kevin Costner’s decision to get a prenuptial agreement makes it more likely that he can retain most of his assets after his split. Prenups allow couples to set the terms for their divorces, from what property is considered joint to how much spousal support will be paid. The only major issues that prenups cannot determine in advance are child support and custody

A well-written prenup can protect assets of all kinds. High-asset couples often use these contracts to answer questions like:

  • Who owns any businesses started during their marriage
  • Who retains the rights to intellectual property
  • How home ownership and other assets should be split during a divorce
  • Whether either partner will receive spousal support and how much

What Happens If a Prenuptial Contract Is Unfair?

Not every prenup is created equal, though. California requires prenups to be relatively fair to each spouse, or they cannot be enforced. The court may not acknowledge an unfair or “unconscionable” prenup. Prenuptial agreements may be considered unfair if:

  • One spouse was forced or pressured into signing it
  • One person did not receive unbiased, independent legal counsel about what the contract meant for their rights
  • The agreement violates state or federal law
  • The agreement is blatantly unfair, putting an undue financial burden on one party

Christine may yet challenge the Costners’ prenuptial agreement in court. If so, she would likely argue that the contract is unfair towards her and prevents her from maintaining her current standard of living. However, the success of this argument would depend heavily upon the circumstances and language involved in the original contract.

The Costner split shows the importance of skilled legal representation, whether you’re writing a prenuptial agreement or preparing for a divorce. If you want to protect your assets, you should consult with an experienced high-asset divorce attorney like those at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP. Our team has decades of experience assisting clients with all aspects of high-asset prenups, marriages, and divorces. We can help you understand your rights, responsibilities, and options at any stage in the process. Learn more about how we can help you avoid a contentious and public split by scheduling your consultation today.