Christine Baumgartner didn’t ‘understand’ the prenup, nor the word ‘understand’

When Christine Baumgartner filed for divorce from Kevin Costner back in early May, I genuinely thought it seemed like Christine had all her ducks in a row. She surprised Costner when she filed, she already had a divorce lawyer, and she had secretly charged a forensic accountant to one of Kevin’s credit cards. Months later, Costner accused Christine of preparing her exit strategy by getting cash withdrawals from credit cards issued to their staff, and he basically accused her of defying him as he had been financially abusing her for years. Well, I do think Christine had an exit strategy, and much of the strategy was predicated on nullifying the prenup. The thing is, it looks like it’s going to be very difficult for her to nullify that sucker, and her lawyers are being taken to the woodshed by Costner’s lawyer, Laura Wasser.

Kevin Costner’s estranged wife, Christine Baumgartner, is arguing that she may not have understood their prenuptial agreement when he signed it in 2004. According to TMZ, the “Yellowstone” star’s lawyers have filed a new court document where they asked if the handbag designer comprehend what she actually signed.

“Christine asserts she cannot admit or deny that she understood the Premarital Agreement because she (and apparently all of her attorneys) do not understand the word ‘understand,’” the court docs read, per the outlet. Costner’s lawyer, Laura Wasser, wrote in the filing, “Christine’s counsel asked for a definition of ‘understood’ and Kevin’s counsel provided the dictionary meaning of the word ‘understood,’ to wit, ‘comprehended or perceive the intended meaning of words.’”

The attorney wants the judge to make Baumgartner’s legal team answer whether or not their client understood the written contract. Per TMZ, the latest filing came after Baumgartner’s lawyer objected to Wasser stating that her client’s estranged wife “understood the legal effect of the premarital agreement before you signed the premarital agreement.”

The mom of three’s attorney said the “request is vague as to the scope and meaning of the terms ‘understood,’” adding that Baumgartner was “unable to admit or deny the request.”

However, if the former model challenges the prenup, TMZ reports that she will have to return the $1.5 million Costner gave her and pay his attorney’s fees.

[From Page Six]

I know this is just stand-issue legal wrangling in messy divorces, but yeesh – is this really Christine’s strategy? To say that the prenup should be invalidated because she didn’t “understand” it? While I’m not a fancy divorce lawyer, shouldn’t the argument be “circumstances change and nineteen years and three kids later, the terms should be revisited?” I guess not, especially with the family court judge who seems to be heavily favoring Costner in all of his rulings.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Cover Images.

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71 Responses to “Christine Baumgartner didn’t ‘understand’ the prenup, nor the word ‘understand’”

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  1. Pinkosaurus says:

    Maybe some lawyer can explain it to me, but I genuinely do not understand how she does not have claim on any of the money he earned during their marriage in a community property state. I understand what he came into the marriage is his but her support and labor at home has no value no matter how much he earned? Why not go all the way and state that she owes him $50,000 per year for the privilege of being married to him?

    • Mel says:

      She signed a contract that gave away those rights, that’s why.

      • ME says:

        Yeah exactly. Why don’t people seem to understand that she signed a pre-nup with lawyers present. She can’t claim she “didn’t understand what she was signing”. She was almost 30 damn years old when she married him and in good mental capacity. Come on. This is insane. If you don’t like the pre-nup, don’t sign it ! Don’t marry the guy then.

    • SarahLee says:

      Because the prenup is her giving away those rights. Also, I don’t see the judge as “siding” with Costner on everything so much as enforcing the legally binding prenup. Asking for the definition of “understand” reminds me of when Bill Clinton said “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Sheesh. And if she didn’t understand, she should go after her legal representatives at the time she signed the agreement.

      • Chaine says:

        Totally agree. I sympathize with her to the utmost extent, and I’m sure the octogenarian judge is no peach, but at the end of the day, the judge cannot simply invalidate the prenup without a valid grounds to do so under California contract law. Even if the judge was totally biased in her favor and ruled for her on everything, if his grounds for doing so were simply “siding with her” then an appeals court would likely overturn his ruling.

        I am guessing her attorneys mistakenly thought that if she filed first and defied the prenup, Costner would quietly settle with her for a larger amount than in their contract to avoid bad publicity. But he’s reached the upper echelons of Hollywood and society where he does not care if everyone hates him.

    • Marigold says:

      The prenup likely specifically covers future earnings. That trumps community property laws.

    • Mustang Sally says:

      There is a reason it’s called “lawyering,” – this is legal table tennis because she gave up her rights when she signed and does not like the outcome. I wonder if (and it sounds as if there wasn’t) clauses in the prenup for CPI/cost of living adjustments, if they bear 1 – x children, each additional child would then be additional $$ to him, etc. It sounds as if she had an attorney review it prior to signing (at least I hope she did). Her soon-to-be-ex is being vindictive, but he holds the cards on this one, unfortunately. And Laura Wasser never loses.

  2. Fernanda says:

    This poor woman will end up with nothing. Costner seems to have been a controlling husband and a terrible person all in all.

    • Becks1 says:

      Well, she’ll get what she’s entitled to under the prenup. That’s what’s being debated currently. Costner wants the prenup enforced, she’s trying to say its not valid.

    • Josephine says:

      I completely agree that she deserves more, but she’ll still end up with an extraordinary amount of money. It doesn’t help anyone to pretend that she’s getting “nothing.” He’s an idiot and selfish and short-sighted for not giving her a fair settlement, but she’ll be ok.

    • SmartRN says:

      Let’s not infantilize her. She’s not a “poor woman”. She enjoyed a lifestyle that none of us here will ever experience, and now she wants to bend the legal system to suit her. That’s greedy.

      • Sugarhere says:

        It’s dawning on me that the disadvantageous prenup was a take-it-or leave-it type of deal: either she agreed to sign it in order to become the enviable MRS Costner or she was free to find love and stability elsewhere.

        Christine Baumgartner might have been so eager to become his wife and so flattered to have been chosen for the role that she signed that pact with the devil -out of her own volition, I’m afraid.

        Kevin Costner must have suggested, ‘you don’t have to sign it if you don’t feel comfortable with it, but I can find someone who will in a split second.’ She made a conscious choice at the time because she absolutely did not want to miss what she regarded as the opportunity of a lifetime.

        Christine made an informed decision, knowing it was a non-negotiable pre-requisite for her to live that life. She knew the prenup was iniquitous. And her romantic fairy tale mindset probably played a part in persuading her they’d live happily ever after.

        Which leads me to my point: her lawyer sucks. Playing the innocent white goose with slight literacy issues, when, in hindsight, she was star-struck and gladly volunteered to marry a rich sexy man under HIS terms only, is going to backfire big time.

        If were her, I would have told Costner: “We’ve been together for 2 decades, and I know you better than anybody. I have an engrossing tell-all book ready to be published. Shall I publish it right away or can we discuss a no-nonsense compensatory alternative if I consent to not publish it.”

        Poor strategy, here. Her counsel’s angle is unhelpful as hell.

      • Sugarhere says:

        Sometimes, you just need to JR Ewing your way through life – liver-filling aside.

      • Mel says:

        @Sugarhere- Your tell all is a great idea but I would bet that she signed a NDA also. He also has the money to tie her up in court forever with a libel suit. He can waste her time and have her pay for the pleasure FOREVER. She needs to cut her losses at this point and just deal with the mess of her own making that is at hand.

    • snappyfish says:

      Her only recourse would be IF the prenup was drafted by Costner’s lawyers & she signed without the advice of her own counsel. She could attempt to claim coercion and undue influence. She probably wanted to marry him no matter what & she did what he asked which was to sign the prenup.

      The argument that she doesn’t understand what the word understand means is ridiculous, sad and she probably needs new counsel

      • Sugarhere says:

        @Mel, @Snappyfish, Wouldn’t it be easier to invalidate a NDA arguing that it conflicts with her First Amendment rights? The situation she’s in triggers my claustrophobia. She appears as a prisoner of her initial honest mistake or bold wager 😬 …

  3. Barbara says:

    I don’t know how old she is but it would seem to me that a better argument would be that she was too young, inexperienced and bamboozled by his lawyers to really grasp the scope of the prenup. He seems to have really been a dick about protecting every last cent he was ever going to earn.

    • Seraphina says:

      That makes me wonder…….did she have legal council when she signed the prenup.
      He is a douche bag as far as I am concerned. And I thought they looked great together. Not watching anything with his name on it. He is greedy and petty.

    • Josephine says:

      I would be shocked if she did not have her own counsel. Any good prenup makes clear that each party was represented by their own legal counsel. Her biggest mistake was thinking she was winning some sort of prize with this guy. I think she really wanted to be married to him, and like most of us, thought he would be a better person in the end than he was.

      • Aurora says:

        I think her other mistake was, when things started to go sour or she started thinking of divorce, not trying to capitalize more on her marriage and on Costner’s late returned success with Yellowstone. She’s wasted millions on frivolous spending; most likely clothes and accesories she never got to wear. She doesn’t seem to own any property or even a solid business. She didn’t care at least for a fancy corporate spokeperson job, or tried to revamp her fashion career. I’m not even sure if she has funds set aside, other than what she desperately cashed out during the weeks prior to their split. She doesn’t seem to have been very practical, which makes me think that Costner was not a cheap provider, and she counted on easily tackling the prenup. I think the prenup’s amounts are a shame when compared to Costner’s current wealth; but she’s had a sorry legal counseling.

  4. Coco says:

    Her problem with this “strategy” is that she had her own personal lawyer present and helping her go over the prenup before she signed it. It would be different if it was his lawyer or if she didn’t have one, but she did.

    • Becks1 says:

      I was wondering if she had a lawyer review the prenup. If she did, then it does actually explain this weird strategy – her team cant say she didn’t “understand” it but they really really want to use that argument so they’re walking this weird line.

      • Coco says:

        From everything that was reported it seems she did have her own lawyer go over it with her.

        If this is the best her lawyers could come up with then she needs new ones.

      • Seraphina says:

        I completely agree with Coco. I asked the question above if she had legal council (above). But maybe she was deep in love – and love makes one blind. You never think their ugly nasty side will come out when you are deep in the stages of enchantment.

  5. Mel says:

    Oh honey…. no. What she didn’t understand was that she wasn’t the exception to his rules. She was ill advised when she signed the prenup and she’s being ill advised now and if whoever is advising her keeps it up , she will end up with nothing. SMDH. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE TERMS OF THE PRENUP ,renegotiate or DON’T MARRY THE PERSON.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Exactly. This is the weirdest “strategy” I could imagine. She’s going to lose her contest & cost herself the $1.5 million (presumably due to a no contest clause in the prenup). Are her attorneys bad or is Christine delusional?

      • Mel says:

        I see a bit of both or her lawyers realize that she backed herself into a corner and this is the only “feasible” strategy they can come up with? She should have never signed that prenup. Sometimes people get to hung up on the romance of things but at the end of the day if someone hands you a contract, I don’t care what it’s for, take it seriously and negotiate the terms if you think they aren’t fair or you walk away.

    • Roast says:

      I’m afraid that this comment sums her thinking (in my opinion). It’s sad that the marriage crumbled – especially with kids involved. I could imagine going into a marriage thinking “that won’t happen to me”…I’d probably do the same. If I ever got remarried, I’m going to hire Kevin’s lawyers, no matter how much they cost.

  6. pollyv says:

    If she did not understand the prenup she had lousy lawyers and maybe she has a case against them. I know everyone is siding with her and calling him an ogre but I’m not so sure about that. We’ve never seen the terms of the prenup so it’s hard to know if it’s unfair but that was the purpose of engaging her own lawyers at the time of signing. If she thought the terms were onerous but that she could change him after marriage, that’s on her.

    • Mel says:

      Agree ,I mean who wouldn’t protect their money? He felt that he got burned by his first divorce, he didn’t want it to happen again. He’s a tightwad but she married him knowing that she would get screwed if they divorced.

      • Jaded1 says:

        I agree. He has every right to protect what he has built. I’m sure that she has had babies and cooks and maids, etc. So I’m not really as sympathetic to her “building his career” as other women who support their husbands through med school and the like. It sounds like he is willing to pay for everything for his children…except buy an extra-huge house and maybe exotic vacations. She signed a prenup, she filed for divorce, she went on a vacation with some guy (bad optics, at the least). Sorry, but I just really don’t feel that bad for her. However cheap or ornery Costner may be, she is giving things right back. I don’t think she is an innocent in this.

  7. Lorelei says:

    This reminded me of the time Bill Clinton asked “what was meant by” some really obvious word that I can’t remember at the moment. During an interview about Monica. It was so stupid that it was a joke for years, but I can’t remember what the word was that he “needed clarification on.” It was hilarious though.

    • AnneL says:

      “That all depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”

      • BeanieBean says:

        Yep. That’s the kind of weasel-y wordplay that gives lawyers a bad name–“depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is”, “didn’t understand ‘understand'”. Sheesh.

    • Kristin says:

      Clinton tried to argue that he disagreed with or didn’t understand the definition of “sexual relations”. This was after admitting that he received a blow job from her, lol.

  8. Jen says:

    If she truly did not understand the prenup, that is possible an issue of malpractice for her lawyer when she signed it. She would have had her own legal counsel.

    Her lawyers now also seem pretty incompetent. The prenup was a valid contract.

  9. The Hench says:

    And the moral of this story is ‘Don’t sign legal documents you don’t agree with.”

    Pre nups are pretty clearcut on what they entail – ‘if we divorce, this is all you get. The end’. Can they be re-negotiated? Yeah, sometimes but they should NEVER be signed on that basis.

    • Ameerah M says:

      And they usually have to be re-negotiated BEFORE a split or divorce filing.

    • Fortuona says:

      Not to lean of elsewhere on a different tack but Alice Evans was claiming the same thing with her pre-nup only for both her and Ioan have signed each and every one of the 50 odd pages of it

  10. Daisy says:

    I think she’s had bad advice from the start — using staff credit cards to start squirreling cash and cars — I can see it , but I can also see where he didn’t take that well , especially the forensic accountant . Add the fact that this has played out pretty publicly with many leaks designed to make him look like an ass, I can see why he’s digging in his heels . He is likely every inch the controlling , arrogant doucheball we think he is …. She knows him better than anyone and playing hardball out of the gate and embarrassing him wasn’t the way to go.

  11. B says:

    The court can be made in to a tool of abuse.

    Also, read Kate Mannes essay on women needing to be the perfect victim.

  12. AnneL says:

    I could argue she should have known better, but I went to law school and my father was a lawyer. I don’t think she had that advantage.

    No matter if her strategy was ill advised, the fact is they were married for almost two decades and have three children, still minors, whom she has mostly raised while he worked. Costner is a massive asshole for not giving her more. Yes, she’s asking for a lot, but he’s worth a fortune. And she’s the mother of his kids.

    It’s just money. You can’t take it with you.

    • Becks1 says:

      She apparently had a lawyer review the prenup though, so that lawyer should have known better as well, I guess.

  13. B says:

    Also how is Costner’s lawyer not embarrassed to be his tool in this? This goes beyond punching down.

    • AnneL says:

      She is just doing her job. She’s considered one of the best in the business and her role is to let him enforce the contract. I can’t fault her for that. I wouldn’t want to do that kind of work, but someone has to.

      • B says:

        Well her job sucks.
        Also, his lawyer does have volition. She could have chosen / continue to choose not to take the job once she understood / understands it.
        Hope the mirrors are gone at her house.

        No one -has- to agree to take that work.

      • molly says:

        If you come for Laura Wasser, you best not miss.

      • bisynaptic says:

        I’m surprised the wife didn’t cover her bases by going to see Wasser, first. That would disqualify Wasser from representing Costner. But, really, it doesn’t look like Costner’s lawyer’s job is that hard: just point to the prenup and the judge will do the rest.

  14. DeepfriedDallasite says:

    This sounds similar to the strategy that Pilar Sanders used when she and Deion Sanders divorced. Pilar lost and the million dollars she got from the prenup went to all the attorney fees she racked up challenging the validity of it. A late friend was friends with Pilar said she signed it to show her loyalty (or some such nonsense) because she wanted to prove she wasn’t in it for the money. I hope that’s not the case with Christine Baumgartner.

    • Kate says:

      That’s a very interesting take and I can see that being why she signed something so unfair. It seems like a lot of people think she was just stupid or naive to think she could change him or that they’d never fall out of love but this is a more nuanced angle. Showing the manipulation more powerful men can exert on a less powerful romantic partner (“if you truly love me not my money then prove it”). I hope her lawyer can make some alternative arguments about unconscionability of the contract (it being so unfair not to take into account the length of the marriage or the number of kids that the terms can’t stand) or misrepresentation of her former counsel. If she doesn’t succeed I guess it’s really not the end of the world, just kind of the end of her privileged world she inhabited for 20 years.

  15. ambel says:

    her lawyers may be avoiding saying she “understood” because as soon as they do so, Wasser will jump straight from “you understood the plain meaning of the words” to “you understood the legal implications of the contract on your present and future circumstances”.

    • WTF says:

      I agree. I haven’t read the actual court filings, but I’m guessing this is only part of their strategy. California does have a catch-all ‘prenups cant be unfair’ law. From what I heard, the prenup only requires Kevin to give her $200,000 for a house. I doubt you could buy a house in California for $200k 2004, you damn sure can’t do it now. So I hope they are going to challenge the agreement based on that other stuff too.

      Also, I don’t think she’s worried about the penalty for challenging the pre-nup. She doesn’t have anything to lose if she’s only getting $1M. Even if he got a judgment against her, she could just file for bankruptcy.

      • Becks1 says:

        according to other reports, she gets 1 million towards a house, and he offered another 30k/month to cover a mortgage. That’s not a lot for California I guess, but its not 200k.

  16. VilleRose says:

    From the beginning I didn’t really understand her strategy, trying to invalidate a prenup she willingly signed before she got married. Maybe she thought it wouldn’t apply because they had kids? I get asking for the ridiculous amount in child support, the guy is loaded and can afford to pay exorbitant child support.

    But her stalling in moving out of the house that wasn’t in her name when the prenup specified she had to move out within 30 days? If she truly had her ducks in a row, she would looked for a place to live and signed a lease before she filed so she had a place to move into right away. That would have been the logical and smart thing to do.

    • BeanieBean says:

      That was dumb. Whether she did that on her own, or with bad advice from her lawyers, it was still dumb. She wasn’t really prepared for filing just yet. Should have reviewed that pre-nup first.

    • Coco says:

      It doesn’t seem like she had any of her ducks in a row before she filed for divorce. It seems like she expected everything to go her way and the prenup would be ignored.

      I don’t know if her lawyer suck or if she just not taking their advice.

      • Becks1 says:

        I think she thought what a lot of people on here thought – that she would be able to invalidate the prenup pretty easily. And now she’s finding out that’s not how it works. But her lawyers should have advised her as such beforehand. Like you said, I can’t tell if her lawyers are bad or if she’s just ignoring them.

  17. Ameerah M says:

    The pre-nup is not getting nullified. She was an adult when she signed it and pre-nups are almost impossible to get nullified. She can however ask for amendments in regards to child support, etc. because they had no children when she signed it. But the idea that she was going to somehow get it nullified was never in the cards. Costner MIGHT give her more money to make her go away. But I highly doubt it. He’s a punitive SOB – he didn’t even want her living in the house with their minor children.

  18. Pam says:

    I’m reminded of Bill Clinton’s defense of, “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…” 🤣🤣🤣 Seriously, I’m not getting why she didn’t get her attorneys to vet this upfront. Unless (I say this as someone having been in a relationship with an overbearing person) he browbeat her into signing the thing, saying, “if you really love me, the money shouldn’t matter!” Also, I remember that time period. His career was in a slump. Maybe she figured she wasn’t going to get more than that amount.

  19. bubblegum Dreams says:

    With a prenup that bad, she should’ve started squirrelling money from the get go, started buying high end jewelry, art, bitcoin etc, all in her name. It is shocking how ill prepared she was for this divorce.

    • Sandy B says:

      Totally agree. If she didn’t start putting away money in the beginning I hope she did when things started to go south Hard to believe that after twenty years with him she was this unprepared for his reaction. Hard ball has no downside for him since he is not universally thought of as a nice guy unlike, say, a Tom Hanks. You’d think he might be concerned on how damaging this could be to his relationship with his young children.

  20. Mel says:

    Sigh, this is all a reminder to know your worth, even when the person has more money than you do. Don’t let them put you in the discount bin, love does not conquer all.

  21. JustMe says:

    I wonder if the family friend that was recently divorced that she vacationed with in Hawaii is counseling her on this?

  22. tealily says:

    To me it sounds like, for whatever reason, her lawyers think this strategy is a better bet to break the prenup than simply saying “things have changed.” Which makes me think she has no hope. Yikes.

  23. Girl says:

    She made a choice to sign the pre-nup. She made a choice to marry him. She made a choice to divorce him. To say she didn’t understand is absurd. She is choosing to plead ignorance. Shameful.

  24. jferber says:

    What if she proved that her lawyer at the time of the pre-nup signing was actually Kevin’s lawyer “lent” to her? Could there be some bad faith clause that he deliberately set her up to trust a lawyer not working in HER best interest, but in Kevin’s?

  25. ML says:

    I’m pretty sure I would dislike both of these people, however, I can’t help but have a bit of sympathy and understanding for Christine. All the articles being published on this divorce come from his POV. Last month, one of the things Kevin had a fit about was that she had actually bought an expensive car (instead of leasing one—no matter that any car no matter how expensive would be chump change to him). He’s proven to be a massive fan of her NOT owning things: for instance, he wants her to rent, not own a home, in their area of California.
    My experience with most of the women I know who have gotten a divorce is that they wind up worse off than the men after the marriage, especially if they have children.

  26. TK says:

    It doesn’t matter what type of guy he is. He has the right to protect his money. She wanted to be married to a rich man. She signed the prenup to show him she is marrying him for love. She knew exactly what she was doing. She thought if anything happen she could get around the prenup. She could have refused and married someone else. She’s not some innocent victim. What’s the point of a contract, if it’s not going to be enforced.