Santa Barbara County Judge Thomas P. Anderle ordered Christine to pay some of her estranged husband's attorneys fees during a hearing on Wednesday. The former handbag designer must fork over $14,237.50 by Sept. 22, according to Fox News Digital. Neither Christine nor Kevin appeared in court for the hearing.
On Friday, Anderle denied Christine's request to increase her monthly child support, which was temporarily set around $129,000, and ended up cutting it in half. That took effect on Friday. In court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight, the judge laid out his reasoning and found that $63,209 per month reasonably meets the needs of the Costner kids — Cayden, 16, Hayes, 14, and Grace, 13 — as Kevin requested.
The judge previously ruled in favor of Kevin in July, when he ordered that Christine must vacate the family home. She filed for divorce in May after 18 years of marriage, and according to the former couple's prenup, she agreed she'd leave the property within 30 days of filing. The judge enforced that condition.
So, where does Christine go from here? Legal experts agree "she needs to reevaluate her strategy."
"Christine is on a losing streak."
Celebrity divorce attorney Chris Melcher tells Yahoo Entertainment that while Christine "had a legitimate claim to child support," she "overplayed her hand by asking for ridiculously high amounts." (Last week, she wanted the judge to increase the monthly sum to $161,592 a month given the Yellowstone star's high income.)
"There's no doubt the parties had a lavish lifestyle during marriage and that Kevin has extraordinarily high income, but child support is designed to meet the reasonable needs of the children. Christine made herself look greedy by asking for $161,000 per month in child support, as no one would reasonably believe that it would cost that much money to support the children while in her care," he explains. "It was more easy to conclude that Christine wanted this money for her own benefit as disguised alimony."
Melcher adds, "Christine might have convinced the judge to award more than the $63,000 per month that Kevin proposed had she presented a reasonable alternative. Instead, she asked for the moon and the court was left with only one proposal that made any sense. The outcome should have been obvious to Christine but she has made a series of missteps in court, so it is time for her to rethink her approach."
Attorney Katherine Miller agrees, telling Yahoo Entertainment that Christine's blow in court is "significant." The child support ruling also indicates "what is important to the judge in this matter" and she may want to "to appeal to him from another approach."
Both Miller and Melcher say it's time for Christine to "reevaluate" her legal strategy.
"Perhaps, more importantly, she might do well to consider changing her strategy in the negotiation with Kevin himself and see if she can use this loss to reframe those discussions into a more positive outcome," Miller adds. "Kevin seems sure that the estranged couple will work it out and this might be the perfect moment to see if that is true."
As for what's coming next, Christine intends to challenge the prenup she signed ahead of their 2004 wedding and a trial has been set for later this year.
Melcher believes there's only one play in terms of the prenup.
Christine has yet to indicate if she intends to challenge the whole prenup, or just the limitation on spousal support. According to the document she signed, she's entitled to a settlement of $1.4 million.
"California law makes it hard to enforce a premarital agreement that was made in 2002 or later, as these agreements are presumed to have been signed involuntarily. Kevin has already made a preliminary showing that Christine signed the agreement voluntarily, so it will be difficult for Christine to claim otherwise," Melcher begins.
"The better line of attack is for Christine to challenge the part of the prenup that provides for a lump sum payment of [$1.4 million] in lieu of spousal support. The court can invalidate that provision if it concludes that it is unconscionable for Christine to receive only [$1.4 million] for spousal support, rather than the high monthly payments that she would probably receive for Kevin's lifetime," he continues. "Certainly, Christine would receive much more than [$1.4 million] in spousal support had she not signed the prenup. But that doesn't make the prenup unconscionable."
Over the last two years, Kevin has made over $19 million, mostly thanks to Yellowstone. He's estimated to be worth around $400 million. In court, Kevin claimed his income in recent years was unusually high thanks to the hit Western show, which he is no longer a part of, and the judge agreed.
Still, Melcher points out the amount Christine will be receiving a month in child support is still high — especially as Kevin will pay for the children's health insurance costs, all private school tuition and related costs, extracurricular expenses and Cayden's car and expenses related to it. There's a chance the court may find the $1.4 million payment "sufficient."
While it may seem like Kevin's prenup is "ironclad," Melcher cautions there's "no such thing" as an ironclad cleanup... at least in California.
"The law presumes that agreements made in 2002 or later were signed involuntarily. The burden is on the proponent of the agreement to prove that the agreement was made voluntarily. Also, limitations on spousal support will be thrown out when the provision is [unreasonable]," he shares.
In Melcher's expert opinion, the $1.4 million provision for spousal support "is on the low side, considering the marital standard of living this couple had, so there is a chance the court could find the amount is unconscionable."
Challenging the prenup comes with a serious risk — and Christine could end up with nothing.
"The risk Christine takes in challenging the prenup is that she will be required to pay all of the attorney fees for both sides regarding the trial if she loses. She could wind up with nothing at the end of the day, other than child support," Melcher shares. "The prenup has a provision requiring the loser to pay the fees in any litigation over the enforcement of the agreement. The court will be required to assess those fees against the losing party, with the only issue being the reasonableness of the amount requested."
Miller puts it bluntly: "If she challenges it, she better be sure she will win and that is far from a foregone conclusion."
There is a chance Kevin could be on the hook for more money.
Miller acknowledges Christine may have to pay more of her ex's attorney's fees, especially "if in the court's view she and her legal team are abusing the system in some way or causing unnecessary litigation or delay." But Kevin faces the same risk.
"[There's] the very real possibility that the judge may determine that Kevin's deeper pockets give him more power in the litigation and order him to pay some or even all of Christine's legal fees," she adds.
"The nasty blows between the parties in court do not help either one of them..."
Melcher thinks Christine and Kevin need to cool it with the messy allegations in legal filings and on the stand. It's clear the judge took notice, too, as he referred to last week's two-day hearing as "contentious" and "acrimonious at times." It remains to be seen if the mud slinging is over.