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A Legal Minute: Scientolowhat? TomKat Legal Discussion

Written by Alexander Tucker   // 07/09/2012

LegalA Legal Minute: Scientolowhat? A legal Discussion of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes Divorce and Custody Case

TomKat is done. I admit I never saw this coming. But I hesitate to write about a Hollywood divorce. If you want an explanation on family law (what we call the practice that handles divorces and custody) you can find it at your nearest courthouse. Every case is the same: they loved each other, they hate each other, custody will be split and they have to split the pie of finances (a whole lot pie in this case). As I was at the airport Sunday I was amazed at how many magazine covers sport a shot of TomKat with or without their daughter.

Of course, what makes this case so interesting is the gamesmanship by Katie Holmes. I mean, it really is quite interesting. Since filing divorce papers on June 28, 2012, Katie has done a great job of getting ahead of the story, and making this divorce about Scientology and protecting her daughter, Suri.

You might be saying, “but it is the media putting out the stories, right?” Well, they are probably getting a little help. If one thing celebrity divorces tell us, it’s that celebrities, their attorneys, and their publicists, will have a plan ready to go. It’s never a one person show.

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Here, the Holmes camp has set Katie up as a model mother watching out for her child. Why does this matter? Here is where the legal gaming comes into play. You may have heard, but Katie Homes filed for divorce in New York, where she hopes she can get sole custody of her daughter. Much has been written that New York is more likely to grant sole custody to a parent. Well, the reality is that it’s very hard to get sole custody.

In any state in our country, the law recognizes that a court, when determining custody must make decisions based on “the best interest of the child.” That can be a tough issue for someone to grasp though. Because, while one parent may feel he or she has the best interest of their child (and what parent wouldn’t), the court can really only look at the objective facts, not the subjective feelings of the parents.

So, while Katie did file for divorce in New York, it’s still an uphill battle. In New York a court might give her sole custody because that state does not like parents to trumps each other’s decisions on parenting. Practically speaking this means Katie will not want Suri exposed to Scientology, and Tom will, so Katie will argue that because religion is such a big issue, and she will never agree to have Suri brought up in the church any longer, the court will have to give custody to solely her, and then Tom can work out a visitation deal.Legal

But lets wait a second. How many families do you know where one parent wants the child to be raised in a religion that differs from the other parent? Probably quite a few. That’s what make it a touchy case for Katie. And that’s why we have seen so much in the media. Perhaps the only way for Katie to win this is to sway the public opinion of Scientology so negative that a judge could not help but think Tom having a say in Suri’ upbringing would not be in her best interest. Can one celebrity do all this? Well judging by how much you see on the newsstand, yes. This is not an uncommon practice for high profile clients of law firms. Use the media to push an agenda in the hopes that one judge can be swayed.

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So will it work? I doubt it. Of course, it’s free for Katie to try since the media will indulge her, but still most any judge, even in New York, will see two parents in a child’s life as better than one. And this is without us discussing the implications of Tom filing his own suit in California (this whole divorce might end up there anyhow). Still, for Suri’s sake, I hope she is being kept away from all this, because divorce is tough enough.

Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York and Illinois. He is a partner at Gonzalez & Mosier Law PLLC. His practice specializes in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property rights. In his spare time he enjoys watching television and films, and writing about it. Follow him on Twitter @showbizattorney, or e-mail him at

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