Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes divorce: Scientology officials not involved
The marathon private negotiations that led to a divorce agreement between Kate Holmes and Tom Cruise was handled strictly through attorneys with no direct input from the Church of Scientology, a source with knowledge of the case said.
Cruise's prominent role in the church has been an issue in the high-profile separation. But the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly, said Scientology officials played no active role in the negotiations, which occurred last weekend.
Holmes will have primary custody of her 6-year-old daughter, Suri, with Cruise under the terms of the settlement. But the "Mission: Impossible" star will still have a "meaningful relationship" with his child.
The agreement provides Cruise with visitation rights but gives Holmes the lead role in choosing how Suri will be educated, a source said Monday.
In an interview with CNN, Holmes' attorney Jonathan Wolfe, even praised Cruise's attorneys "for their professionalism and diligence that helped bring about this speedy resolution.... We are thrilled for Katie and her family and are excited to watch as she embarks on the next chapter of her life," Wolfe said.
With a prenuptial agreement governing the distribution of assets, talks between lawyers for Cruise, a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, and Holmes, who was raised Roman Catholic, centered on the role of Scientology in the upbringing of Suri, according to a source who was familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Holmes wanted guarantees in the settlement to ensure nothing is done while their daughter is with Cruise that would "alienate" Suri from her, the sources said.
Cruise and Holmes appeared to refer to the religious component of their split in a joint statement: "We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other's commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other's roles as parents," they said.
But experts in so-called spiritual custody disputes said that although family law judges try to ensure the interests of children are protected in matters, such as medical care and housing, they give both parents broad leeway in choosing a religious upbringing.
"The general rule is the courts will defer unless the consequences are really detrimental to the health of the child — a threat of immediate and substantial harm," said Jeffrey Shulman, a professor of law at Georgetown University who has written extensively about the issue and believes the standard doesn't protect children sufficiently.
In the case of Cruise and Scientology, a judge could intervene if the religion was used to turn Suri away from Holmes because she was not an adherent, Shulman said.
"The courts could say to Cruise, 'You cannot conduct yourself in a way that alienates the child from Katie Holmes,' " he said. "But mere doctrine may not be enough for the court to do that."
— Richard Winton
Photo: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2010. Credit: Toni Rodriguez / Associated Press