Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes private divorce pleases both sides
Both sides in the Kate Holmes-Tom Cruise divorce are expressing satisfaction with the private resolution to the high-profile case.
A source with knowledge of the case said the settlement was made in such a way that none of the terms would be contained in publicly available court documents, a practice that is fairly common in such cases.
Holmes filed for divorce last month in New York. A private settlement was reached over the 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 "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 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."
Courts won't rule on the merits of a particular religion, New York lawyer Malcolm Taub said.
"They would not say that Scientology is not a valid religion, so we're going to award [sole spiritual custody] to Katie Holmes," Taub said.
The confidential deal was hammered out over the weekend in New York and announced Monday, 11 days after Holmes took the entertainment industry and reportedly her husband by surprise with the filing of divorce papers in Manhattan.
— Richard Winton
Photo: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with their daughter Suri in 2006. Credit: Alessandra Tarantino / Associated Press