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Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes: Disposable phone used to start divorce

July 10, 2012 | 11:36 am

Katie Holmes set the wheels in motion for her divorce from Tom Cruise using a throwaway cellphone provided by a friend to initially talk to her lawyers and avoid her husband knowing about the conversations, according to a source familiar with the divorce.

The move allowed her to prepare her legal case without Cruise and his staff knowing she was about to exit the marriage and left him shocked at the sudden divorce. By the time a deal was struck last weekend to end the marriage, she hired three law firms in three states. 

Holmes will now have primary custody of her 6-year-old daughter, Suri, with Cruise in a quick, behind-closed-doors divorce settlement. But the "Mission: Impossible" star will still have a "meaningful relationship" with his child.

PHOTOS: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes through the years

The agreement provides Cruise with visitation rights but gives Holmes the lead role in choosing how  Suri will be educated, a source said Monday.

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.

PHOTOS: Celebrity splits of 2012

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 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.

PHOTOS: Famous members of Scientology

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.


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— Richard Winton, John Horn and Harriet Ryan