High-Profile Cases Marriage Contracts

Do Pre-Nups Work? Just Ask Kevin Costner!

Written by Russell Alexander ria@russellalexander.com / (905) 655-6335

The Hollywood tabloids are humming with their coverage of Kevin Costner’s pending divorce from his wife Christine Baumgartner. The actor, aged 68, was reportedly handed divorce papers after 18 years of marriage to his now 49-year-old wife.

But this divorce shouldn’t involve years of legal wrangling, like some of them do.  Because when they married in 2004, Costner and Baumgartner entered into a pre-nuptial agreement (or pre-nup) – which is not surprising since Costner’s been married and divorced before.  He reportedly paid his first ex-wife, Cindy Silva, about $80 million when they split. 

Costner has apparently learned from that costly experience – and you can, too.

His current pre-nup with Baumgartner expressly covers the issues of child support and children’s expenses, property division, and responsibility for lawyers’ fees, to name a few.  (And under the agreement, Baumgartner will receive nearly $130,000 per month, in support for their three children).  It also provides that Baumgartner must move out of their shared home within 30 days of her filing for the divorce.

Importantly, it also starts the ball rolling on settling out their finances:   Costner’s legal team advises that he has already paid Baumgartner $1.5 million up-front, in keeping with the pre-nup’s stipulated terms.

According to some U.S. legal experts who are watching the case, the clarity and certainty of this pre-nup might be hard to challenge.  No doubt it’s been drafted and negotiated by teams of very experienced U.S. Family Lawyers, who are experts at crafting ironclad agreements.  As in Canada, the law governing these kinds of marriage contracts make them very difficult to overturn or contest, in most cases.

This has not stopped Baumgartner from trying, though.  It’s been reported that she is now challenging the pre-nup’s validity, claiming that she felt pressured to sign it. As with Canadian law, the contract laws of California dictate that a marriage contract can be set aside, but only in specified and relatively narrow circumstances. It’s a high hurdle to meet, especially when presumably both spouses received independent legal advice prior to signing.

Apparently, Costner’s legal team is well-armed against this sort of attack as well:  The pre-nup states that if either of them contests its validity – but ultimately does not succeed – then they must pay the other’s legal fees, witness fees, and appraisal costs.  And if it’s Baumgartner who launches the unsuccessful attack, then she must repay the $1.5 million advance she’s already received.  This kind of term serves to dissuade both spouses from launching baseless attempts to impugn a fair and freely-negotiated deal.

The pending Costner-Baumgartner divorce just goes to show:  Whether you’re a pair of high-profile celebrity spouses, or an average Canadian couple, getting a pre-nup is never a bad idea.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.