Custody Case Study: Halle Berry’s Custody Battle with Gabriel Aubry

Academy award-winning actress Halle Berry has been involved in a very public child support battle for nearly a decade. The mother of two children from different fathers, Berry is court-ordered to pay child support to Gabriel Aubry, the father of her daughter Nahla, and possibly also French actor Olivier Martinez, the father of her son Maceo.

Up until 2021, the popular actress was paying an astronomical $16,000 per month to Aubry, which she claims he was mostly spending on maintaining a lavish lifestyle. But a court recently decided she only has to pay $8,000 from now on.

A Story Without a Hollywood Ending

The Hollywood actress began dating Aubry, a model, in 2005, and the couple split up in 2010. By that time, they had a 2-year-old daughter, Nahla.

In 2012, Berry wanted to move to France with her daughter to join her soon-to-be husband, Olivier Martinez, a heartthrob of French cinema who starred in many well-known American films. Aubry rejected Berry’s petition for relocation, and the courts sided with him.

Why did Halle Berry lose this custody battle involving potential relocation to France with her daughter Nahla? Things were already very tense, and one can speculate that upending a young child’s entire life and taking her far away from one of her parents was not going to sit well with the court.

‘Exorbitant’ Child Support

Between January and September of 2012, Berry made $4.7 million. As her ex made less than $200,000 the same year, when the couple split up, the court ordered the actress to pay $16,000 per month in child support. And because they had been separated for over a year when the order was issued, the ruling also mandated that Berry should pay $115,000 in retroactive support. She was also required to cover Aubry’s legal fees.

The custody arrangement established that the former couple would share custody, and Berry would pay Nahla’s private school tuition and health insurance.

In 2021, after paying the $16,000 per month for eight years, Berry expressed her outrage on social media, stating:

“I’ve been paying it for a decade now. I feel if a woman or man is having to pay support that is way more than the reasonable needs to help SUPPORT the child, I think that is wrong! I understand some parents (man or woman) may need help, but I also feel in these modern times both men and women have the responsibility to financially take care of their children and work hard and make every effort to do so. The way many laws are set up, people are allowed to USE children in order to be awarded money to live a lifestyle that not only did they not earn, but that is way above and beyond the child’s reasonable needs, and that is ‘THE WRONG’ and where I see the abuse. I can say I’m living it everyday, and I can tell you it’s hard. I do totally understand the feelings of those men who feel they are and have been taken advantage of by the system.”

Shortly after airing her frustration, Berry took it to court and succeeded in reducing the child support payments.

An Amicable Divorce

The star’s split from Martinez, with whom she was legally married, was reportedly amicable. Recently, the former spouses went to court to facilitate traveling between France and California during their son Maceo’s summer vacation. They agreed that there would be no restrictions regarding taking the boy out of California, and that a nanny would fly with him to and from France if neither Berry nor Martinez were available to accompany him.

When Martinez and Berry divorced, they agreed to discuss child support at a later date. Though it has been reported that the actress pays Martinez child support, this has not been officially confirmed, and the amount, if any, is not publicly known.

When Berry started dating Martinez after meeting him during a film shoot, he and Aubry got into a fight at an airport. The French actor punched the model, resulting in Aubry showing up for custody hearings with bruises on his face. The altercation further strained the relationship between Aubry and Berry.


Not long ago, having a mother pay child support used to be uncommon. As women occupy more and more positions in the professional world and more dads choose to stay at home and raise the kids, we are seeing more cases like Berry’s.

Many different factors impact child support and custody decisions. Courts typically try to ensure the child’s life won’t be disrupted. This sometimes requires ensuring the less affluent parent has enough money to cover the child’s needs without disrupting their standard of living.

But considering Berry was already paying for private schools and pricey health insurance, $16,000 per month does seem like an exorbitant amount.

As often happens with this type of case, the animosity between Berry and Aubry played a big role here. It appears that Berry left Aubry for Martinez. And, of course, he was going to block her move to France with him, which was the new couple’s original plan. According to some sources, Berry and Martinez broke up because courts didn’t allow the actress to take her daughter and move to France, and the French actor was unhappy living in LA.

In fact, Berry’s split from Aubry was so contentious that she once lost a film contract because Aubry wouldn’t come to New York to take care of Nahla during the shoot. After that, the actress made public statements regarding her concern about Aubry’s ability to appropriately parent their daughter, and she reportedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain full custody.

If you take the animosity out of the equation, the child support payments might have been smaller, to begin with, and perhaps the co-parenting partners might have found a way of having Nahla spend part of the year in France.

While all this drama unfolds between Aubry and Berry, we know very little about her arrangements with Martinez, perhaps simply because neither one is trying to make the other one’s life miserable at every turn.

Lessons Learned from Halle Berry’s Custody Battles

  1. Make an agreement in writing about what will happen if you split up, even if you are not legally married.

    Berry never married Aubry, and perhaps she hadn’t sufficiently discussed the possibility of a split with her legal advisors.

  2. Do your absolute best to keep things amicable whenever possible.

    Granted, it would be hard to avoid the heartbreak when you fall in love with someone new and leave your former partner behind. But unless criminal or extremely manipulative behavior is involved, you can always do something to make the other person feel a little better. Antagonizing your ex before a custody battle is a recipe for disaster.

  3. Work with a therapist.

    If you are too stressed about the divorce, perhaps therapy can help you see things more clearly and minimize the drama.

  4. Hire a top-tier divorce lawyer specializing in child support and contentious custody battles.

    Whatever your circumstances may be, an experienced New York divorce attorney can help. Our team specializes in high-profile New York divorces. We have helped dozens of celebrities and businesspeople secure custody and negotiate convenient child support and alimony arrangements. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.


Dror Bikel

Dror Bikel founded and leads Bikel Rosenthal & Schanfield, New York’s best known firm for high-conflict matrimonial disputes. A New York Superlawyer℠ and twice recognized (2020 and 2021) New York Divorce Trial Lawyer of the Year, Dror’s reputation as a fearsome advocate in difficult custody and divorce disputes has led him to deliver solid outcomes in some of New York’s most complex family law trials. Attorney Bikel is a frequent commentator on high profile divorces for national and international media outlets. His book The 1% Divorce - When Titans Clash was a 5-category Amazon bestseller.

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