A judge recently ruled in favor of Field of Dreams actor Kevin Costner, ordering his estranged wife, Christine Baumgartner, to move out of the couple’s shared house.
If you are going through a divorce in New York, you may be wondering, can you legally kick your spouse out of the marital home or vice versa? To answer your question, let us first look at Costner’s case and what we can learn from it.
Costner and Baumgarten, a fashion designer, lived in a property the actor owned prior to the marriage. According to the Daily Mail, located on the California coast, in Carpinteria, a few miles from Santa Barbara, the marital home is a 10-acre beachfront compound valued at $145 million. Carpinteria has previously attracted stars like Ashton Kutcher, Ellen Degeneres, and George Lucas.
The Academy-award-winning film director and the fashion entrepreneur were married for 18 years and have three teenage children in common.
Prior to the marriage, Baumgartner signed a prenuptial agreement that clearly stated that she was to leave the marital home, which was Costner’s separate property if she ever divorced the actor.
Baumgartner didn’t want to leave until mid-August as she was looking to finalize certain financial arrangements pertaining to the divorce, notably, child support negotiations. Meanwhile, Costner’s attorneys claimed his estranged wife’s request had no merit and demanded she vacate the residence by July 13.
The prenup establishes that Costner must pay his former spouse one million dollars following the divorce filing, plus $30,000 a month in child support. He is also required to put up a $200,000 deposit to help her buy a new home. The actor also claims he has offered to increase the monthly child support payments by $38,000 and to foot the bill for various moving costs.
One important aspect to highlight here is that California, where Costner’s split occurred, is a community property state, whereas New York is an equitable distribution state. A prenup, of course, establishes its own rules. But as a community property state, California will typically split marital assets on a 50/50 basis. In contrast, New York will do so in a manner it considers ‘equitable’ based on each spouse’s contribution to the assets and other factors.
Baumgartner claimed that moving out by Costner’s desired deadline would be detrimental to her children. But the Yellowstone actor’s attorneys claim the only thing being disrupted would be the fashion designer’s expensive taste in personal trainers and plastic surgery. Baumgartner had allegedly requested a staggering $248,000 a month in child support.
After considering the disagreement between the spouses, a California judge ruled that “Mother’s proposed conditional agreement to move out by the end of August is not warranted under [the] circumstances."
Thus Baumgartner now has to move out while the child support agreement is pending. In court filings, her attorneys stated, "Although Kevin has vast wealth and extraordinary income, he apparently expects his children to live far below his economic circumstances when they are with their mother."
Can a Spouse Be Kicked out of The Marital Home During Divorce?
During a contentious divorce, one spouse will sometimes try to evict the other from the marital home. When asked to vacate a property, the other party will not always agree to do it. In these cases, either spouse may resort to the courts to settle the matter.
Evicting a spouse is not easy, less so when both spouses contributed to the purchase of the property. If the home is considered a marital asset rather than one of the spouses´ separate properties, decisions about who can live there will usually require an agreement between the parties.
Typically, the only case when a spouse who separately owns the marital home can easily be evicted is if they have been violent or abusive toward their spouse. For example, a wife who signed a prenup and contributed nothing to the marital property may be able to evict her estranged husband during divorce if he has been abusive.
It is important to note that whatever the courts decide regarding who can live in the marital home until the divorce is finalized, that decision will not necessarily match the final divorce arrangement.
When Can You Evict Your Spouse?
- Cases of domestic violence: If there is evidence of violence and abuse against a spouse or the divorcing couple´s children, the victim(s) can seek a restraining order that would effectively keep the perpetrator away from the marital home, whether they have ownership rights over it or not.
- The home is considered separate property: If one of the spouses purchased the home with their own funds prior to the marriage without any contribution from the other spouse, it may be easier to obtain an eviction order from the courts.
Evicting Your Spouse During Divorce in New York
New York is not a community property but an equitable distribution state. In community property states, if a property was acquired during the marriage, it is usually considered marital property and subject to 50/50 division during divorce.
In New York and most U.S. states, courts will consider many different aspects to establish who has ownership rights over the marital home and other assets. In states with this type of legislation, the marital home can be considered separate property depending on different factors. For example, if only one spouse is listed on the deed or the home was purchased using an individual bank account.
For these reasons, New York may view the marital home as separate property in cases where community property states like California might view it as a marital asset.
When New York courts view the marital home as separate property, you may have a higher chance of securing an eviction order against your spouse.
Other Factors Considered by New York Courts to Issue Spousal Eviction Orders
- Whether alternative housing options are available
- Whether the living situation is potentially detrimental to the spouses’ health and well-being
- The impact of the proposed eviction on the children’s standard of living
New York Divorce Attorneys
The legal options available to you will vary depending on numerous factors. Our team of New York divorce attorneys can help you make informed decisions about spousal eviction, asset division, and child support issues.
Contact us today online or at 212.682.6222.