When lawyer Jacqueline Michaud sent an email earlier this month, she ended it with an unequivocal warning to her opponent. ‘It’s not good to bite the hand that feeds,’ he said with a sudden departure from the usual legality of his profession.
To whom, you may wonder, is the dreaded Miss Misho giving such remarkably blunt advice?
The answer is Christine Baumgartner, the estranged 49-year-old wife of Hollywood superstar Kevin Costner, who Miss Michaud represents and in this sharp phrase cautions ‘the hand that feeds’.
So what raised such a subtle warning to Christine, who was comforted by a banker friend of hers yesterday?
Intriguingly, it seems that 68-year-old Costner’s sudden split in May is already shaping up to be one of Hollywood’s most acrimonious — and short — divorces.
Court documents obtained exclusively by the Mail show that the couple has been in a vicious battle over who gets ownership of the saucepan and dog bed, from Costner spending $100,000 in child support money on plastic surgery from Christine.
Indeed, the documents make clear just how dramatic — and rapid — this turn of events is, especially considering that just a few weeks ago Costner made it rather clear that he was being forced to separate from Christine, with whom he has three children.
Court documents obtained exclusively by the Mail show that the couple have had a bitter battle over who gets ownership of the saucepan and the dog’s bed, from Costner spending $100,000 in child support money on plastic surgery from Christine.
Confirming that Christine had filed for divorce four days earlier, her spokesman said in a statement released at the time: ‘It is with great regret that circumstances beyond his control have resulted in Mr Costner taking part in the marriage proceedings.’
Fast forward to today, and Hollywood is abuzz at the sight of an A-lister with a fortune in the region of $400 million splurging it on kitchen appliances.
Costner’s lawyer’s blunt email appears to have been prompted by a list of items that Christine hoped to remove from the $145 million Santa Barbara beachfront property that served as the couple’s marital home.
Along with pots and pans and dog beds, he asked permission to move a blue-and-white beach umbrella, a juicer and an exercise bike.
Reasonable enough, you might think, but not for Costner. As her lawyer clarified, while she had no objection to removing her toiletries, handbags, clothes, jewelery and ‘some Christmas decorations’, any other items must be agreed in writing.
Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of going through a breakup knows that battle lines can be drawn over the smallest of things.
Even so, a Hollywood source told the Mail yesterday, Costner’s divorce appears to be in a different league altogether.
‘You have a star worth millions arguing with his wife about whether he can take the salad spinner out of the kitchen without a written agreement,’ they said. ‘It’s tiny beyond belief.’
As for Costner’s behavior, an industry insider had this to say: ‘Kevin has long had a reputation in his professional life for being a tough negotiator,’ they told the Mail this week. ‘It’s raising eyebrows that he seems to have the same approach in his personal life.’
Court documents seen by the Mail reveal the hostility that led to the couple’s sudden split after 19 years of marriage.
In one salvo, as well as his estranged wife accusing him of spending his child support money on plastic surgery — a claim his lawyers have yet to respond to — Costner said he was withdrawing cash on credit cards to build a cash reserve before filing for divorce that belonged to their domestic workers.
In return, she accused the star of refusing to adequately support the couple’s three children – Kayden, 16, Hayes, 14, and 13-year-old Grace – as well as trying to conceal the true extent of her fortune.
‘While we have not made formal findings, we believe Mr Costner’s net worth is in excess of $400 million (£309 million) and his most recently reported income is in excess of $19 million (£15 million) a year,’ his lawyers wrote in a letter earlier this month, suggesting his Aspen farm is worth $200 million.
Little wonder, perhaps, then that after initial expressions of sadness at the split, Costner came out fighting.
As well as lawyer Jacqueline Michaud, in a clear sign he wanted to play hardball he hired celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, who has represented Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Kim Kardashian and is known as the ‘Disso Queen’ for her role in breaking up high-profile marriages.
Just four months ago, everything looked fine: In January, Costner posted a video on Instagram apologizing for the fact that, due to flooding, he and Christine would be a no-show at the Golden Globes ceremony that month, where he received a Best Actor nomination for his role as rancher John Dutton in the hit western drama series Yellowstone.
‘No one is sadder than us that we can’t be there,’ he said. ‘Chris had a beautiful dress. I was looking forward to walking the red carpet with her.’ Instead, he announced, his wife organized a family TV viewing party complete with balloons.
Amidst these touching tributes, few would have guessed that there was anything wrong with a marriage that was seen as one of the strongest unions in showbiz. After first meeting on a golf course together since 1998, the couple separated briefly in 2002 due to Costner’s reluctance to have more children.
Already a father of four — he has three children, Annie, 39, Lily, 36, and Joe, 35, from first wife Cindy Silva, as well as a son Liam, 26, from a brief relationship with actress Bridget Rooney — Costner later admitted that his age worried him that he would not be an effective father.
The couple married in front of 300 guests at Costner’s 165-acre Colorado ranch in September 2004.
Already a father of four — he has three children, Annie, 39, Lily, 36, and Joe, 35, from first wife Cindy Silva, as well as a son Liam, 26, from a brief relationship with actress Bridget Rooney — Costner later admitted that his age worried him that he would not be an effective father. The couple has three children, aged 13, 14 and 16
He overcame his fling, and in September 2004 he and Christine married in front of 300 guests at Costner’s 165-acre Colorado ranch. Their three children followed in quick succession.
In the years that followed, the couple’s relationship seemed to grow stronger.
“Our partnership has really come into focus,” Costner said in a 2020 interview, during which he claimed the lockdown made their relationship stronger.
One might wonder then, what ‘irreconcilable differences’ Christine is referring to in her divorce petition.
Costner’s representatives have strongly denied the infidelity rumors as ‘defamatory’, and have also dismissed suggestions that the star’s long filming schedule away from home had put the couple under stress.
Either way, the divorce papers make it clear that the once-loving A-list couple sparred over a list of items Christine requested be removed from the family home — as well as dog beds, pots, pans and beach umbrellas, she wanted ‘two swivel chairs’, and some ‘plates and bowls to be photographed’.
‘Hopelessly vague and ambitious,’ sniffed Costner’s advice. Given this level of disagreement, it is not surprising to hear that the two cannot agree on more fundamental issues.
Divorce papers reveal that the once-loving A-list couple fell out over a list of items Christine requested be removed from the family home.
Even sharing the news of their separation with their children became a point of contention, according to court papers.
The three Costner children were eventually told of the parents’ split in a Zoom call their father made from Las Vegas, a decision Christine described as ‘confusing’. For his part, Costner insisted that he was measured after his wife was consistently at a loss over how to present the news of their split.
Costner made it clear from the start that he expected his ex to surrender to the terms of the couple’s prenuptial agreement, which gave him 30 days before the divorce proceedings began to leave the marital home.
‘Christine wanted this divorce. He knew about the prenuptial agreement provision requiring him to waive it — he simply chose to ignore it,’ his lawyers wrote in a letter.
Not so, his wife replied, indicating that while he was fully prepared to vacate the shared mansion, he needed to ensure his financial security before doing so.
Accusing her ex of effectively trying to ‘evict’ her and their three children, she said she had their best interests at heart. ‘We have three children to think about. . . My goal has been, and will continue to be, to maintain as much stability as possible for our children,’ she wrote.
Christine suggests that Costner has agreed to monthly payments of $248,000 (£192,000) – an amount she labels ‘staggering’, claiming she can only afford it through ‘depleted assets’.
Calling her request ‘grossly inflated and unsubstantiated’, he counter-offered $51,940, and accused her of using his child support for her own vanity expenses.
‘Christine appropriated 60 percent of expenses such as private tutors for minor children, unspecified credit card expenses and her plastic surgery without explanation or basis,’ he wrote in a court document this month.
Court filings go back and forth, all of which are eye-popping and demanding — including Costner’s lawyer stating that their client earned $19,517,064 (£15 million) last year but expects to earn ‘significantly less’ this year because his contract with Yellowstone is about to expire.
In another court filing, Costner suggested his wife shelled out the cash to buy a new top-of-the-range car before their split.
‘Thus, it appears that Christine was planning her exit long before she told Costner in April 2023,’ suggests one of the court filings. ‘The applicant has shown a disturbing tendency over the last few months … to take the respondent’s property without his knowledge or consent.’
Whether it’s related to dog beds and saucepans, no one knows, but Costner isn’t giving up his kitchen tools without a fight.
Meanwhile, the presiding judge – despite making it clear he believed Christine’s offer to photograph her items was ‘not unreasonable’ – suggested the two sides could try to resolve the matter ‘quickly’ before going to trial through compromise. He also ordered Costner to pay monthly support of $129,000.
Given the extent of the rift between the pair, it seems unlikely that a deal over their once-shared property will happen anytime soon — although in a surprising twist, it has emerged that the former Mr and Mrs Costner will put on a united front later this summer when they host a charity event in aid of the emergency services.
Will the blue-white beach umbrella be removed by then? Who can tell? Either way, it’s safe to assume that arguments over those cookware can still be heated…
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