Although many believe Scientology is at the root of Katie Holmes’ and Tom Cruise’s divorce, legal experts do not believe it will affect the actual financial settlement. However, Scientology may play a role when it comes to child custody arrangements and parental rights.
According to Mike Kelly, a Santa Monica divorce lawyer and former chairman of the American Bar Association custody committee, a California court is not likely to view Scientology differently from other religions. Thus, Cruise, a Scientology member, would be within his rights to raise the couple’s six-year-old daughter, Suri, according to Scientology traditions while in his care.
A source who is familiar with the divorce case said a custody arrangement in which both parents rights are upheld will likely be negotiated.
Rumor has it that Holmes is in fear of the Scientology church and believes its members are out to abduct Suri. However, a Scientology lawyer denied reports that the church members are monitoring Holmes.
“There is no truth whatsoever to the [report] that the church of Scientology has sent anyone to follow or survey Katie Holmes,” said Gary S. Soter.
Lisa Helfend Meyer, a Los Angeles family law attorney, said it is not uncommon for divorced parents to argue over which religion their children will be raised with. However, it is not common for courts to base custody decisions on religious grounds.
“It has to affect a child physically or emotionally. [The religion] cannot just be different,” said Meyer.
Holmes filed for divorce in New York, which many believe was a strategical move to ensure proceedings remain private. Neither she, nor her divorce attorneys have commented on the reasons for the filing.
According to Cruise’s representatives, the actor was shocked upon hearing of the divorce.