Judge Explains Why He Sided With Kevin Costner and Not Christine Baumgartner Over Child Support Payments

The court on Sept. 1 ordered that Costner's child support payments to Christine Baumgartner be significantly reduced.

Now that the dust has settled on the "contentious" and "acrimonious" battle over how much Kevin Costner should pay his estranged wife in child support, the judge is explaining why he sided with the actor and not Christine Baumgartner.

According to court documents obtained by ET, Santa Barbara County Judge Thomas P. Anderle on Tuesday released a 17-page summary of the child support case and the reasons behind his conclusions that ultimately gave the Yellowstone star a huge victory, after the court ordered his monthly child support payments be drastically reduced -- from $129,000 per month to $63,209. Costner and Baumgartner share three children -- sons Cayden, 16, and Hayes, 14, and daughter Grace, 13. Baumgartner filed for divorce in May after 18 years of marriage.

During a two-day hearing last week -- which the judge referred to as "contentious; acrimonious at times" -- Baumgartner testified as to why the monthly child support figure should be increased to $161,000 per month, explaining it was important for the children to have a "comparable lifestyle" to the one they enjoyed when she and Costner were still a couple. In her effort to persuade the court to grant her request, Baumgartner hired a forensic accountant who testified that Costner's total cash flow of $1.5 million per month -- which included Costner's Yellowstone income -- justifies the amount she's requesting. But the judge disagreed, concluding that, in doing so, "it shows the application of the formula would be unjust and inappropriate in this case."

Kevin Costner, Christine Baumgartner and their three children at El Capitan Theatre on August 1, 2019 in Los Angeles. - Getty

In his opinion, the judge said he "liked this witness [the forensic accountant] and found her courtroom demeanor good." The judge added, "[S]he is a competent expert in these matters" but "her testimony gave me pause." As for Baumgartner's testimony, the judge also found her "credible" and to have "good courtroom demeanor." The judge also said that while he "did not perceive there was any intention by her to mislead the Court ... her testimony was not much help on the issue before the bench today."

Costner's forensic accountant also testified and argued why Costner's Yellowstone salary should not be factored into determining how much he should pay in child support. As ET previously reported, Costner argued that his Yellowstone salary -- reportedly over $1 million per episode -- was a "complete aberration, and provided Kevin with an unusually high level of income -- a level he has never had in the past." In May, ET exclusively reported that Costner would not be returning to Yellowstone due to disagreements over his filming schedule. 

Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner in happier times at a benefit on April 05, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. - Getty

In court documents, Costner's accountants stated his average cash flow for the 30 months ending June 30, 2023 -- including his Yellowstone income -- was $1,308,920 per month. Without the Yellowstone income, Costner's accountants concluded Costner's monthly cash flow for the 30 months ending June 30, 2023, was $468,136 per month.

The judge found Costner's forensic accountant "presented well" and to be "very capable." After hearing Costner's forensic accountant explain why the Yellowstone salary should not be factored in determining how much Costner should pay in child support, the judge concluded Costner's "theory of the case preponderates," or exceedingly convincing. 

The judge added, "The court did not find Christine's theory of the case intellectually dishonest; but it was not persuasive; it did not preponderate." Baumgartner has since moved into a 4-bedroom home in Montecito, California.

Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner at the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscars party on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. - Getty

In conclusion, the court ordered Costner to pay $63,209 per month in child support. The payments to Baumgartner commenced on Friday. Costner's also responsible for "all the children's health insurance costs and unreimbursed health care expenses (including medical, dental, therapeutic and orthodontic); all private school tuition and related costs; all the minor children's extracurricular expenses, hunting club dues, and Cayden's car and expenses related to it."

There's still the issue of who will have to pay for Baumgartner's attorney fees and costs, a matter that will be settled at a later date. As for when the estranged couple can finally put this divorce behind them, the court estimates "the completion of the case [is] now anticipated for December 2023."