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Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise divorce: Sealed files may protect privacy

July 2, 2012 |  6:57 am

Click for photos of Tom and Katie through the years

Because Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise outside of California, it could help protect her privacy as the celebrity breakup winds through the courts, one legal veteran says.

No case has been filed in Los Angeles County, where the couple have a home, court officials said. The decision to file in New York rather than California might have been one of convenience — Holmes and the couple's daughter are currently living in New York — but it also might reflect a desire for privacy.

"My guess is that she brought it in New York because files are sealed," said Manhattan attorney Raoul Felder, a veteran of high-profile divorce cases. "If it was in California, it's all public and you can walk into the clerk's office and get the papers."

PHOTOS: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes through the years

Holmes, 33, has retained two prominent law firms that specialize in wealthy breakups. New York lawyer Allan E. Mayefsky has been involved in a number of acrimonious and headline-grabbing splits, including the divorces of model Christie Brinkley, TV anchor Joan Lunden, and a Manhattan financier who was ordered to pay his ex-wife $44 million.

In addition, the "Dawson's Creek" actress hired a New Jersey divorce lawyer, Jonathan Wolfe, whose website boasts of his prowess in "complex matrimonial matters" involving "leaders or the spouses of leaders" in business, entertainment and sports. He has written extensively about prenuptial agreements and ways to recover hidden assets in divorce proceedings.

In a statement, Wolfe called the divorce "a personal and private matter."

PHOTOS: Celebrity splits of 2012

"Katie's primary concern remains, as it has always been, her daughter's best interest," the lawyer said, referring to the couple's daughter, Suri, 6. 

Speculation about a prenuptial agreement began almost immediately after the couple's engagement. Cruise already had two ex-wives in Hollywood — actresses Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman, with whom he adopted two children. His annual earnings — recently estimated by Forbes at $75 million — dwarf those of his young bride, whose father is a lawyer.

Asked whether there was a prenuptial agreement, Fields said, "I can't comment on that. It will all come out."

Bernard Clair, a Manhattan divorce lawyer with many wealthy clients, said judges generally order divorcing couples to abide by the terms of their prenuptial agreements when it comes to finances. But the court often modifies provisions governing child support and custody, potential issues in the Cruise-Holmes breakup.

"These provisions relating to custody are almost always viewed as statements of intent and aspiration as opposed to enforceable and binding provisions," Clair said.

Meanwhile, Cruise's longtime legal representative said he's hopeful the divorce proceedings initiated by the movie star's wife can occur without rancor.

"I would hope that it's not a contentious matter. I know Tom is not a particularly contentious person," Bert Fields said.

Celebrities who have filed for divorce in California have been subject to media scrutiny because of public-record law. Court documents recently detailed the property and assets changing hands during Kobe Bryant’s divorce proceedings.

Prior to that, court papers revealed details about former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's divorce from Maria Shriver, including that Schwarzenegger did not want to pay spousal support to his wife of 25 years.


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— Harriet Ryan, John Horn and Matt Stevens

Photo: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2011. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press