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Child custody wars: Holmes seeks divorce, wants to protect child

The mother of all child custody battles appears to be taking shape out east. As most Arizona readers already know, on June 28 actress Katie Holmes embarked on her own 'Mission Impossible' by filing for divorce from actor Tom Cruise. The divorce action cites irreconcilable differences, which may be a colossal understatement if the buzz about a brewing child custody dispute is true.

Indeed, Holmes requested sole custody of their 6-year-old daughter. She also requested primary residential custody. Cruise, who was said to have been blindsided by the divorce petition, apparently will seek joint custody. It appears that his intense commitment to the Church of Scientology may play a central role in any child custody litigation.

The divorce petition was filed in New York, and few commentators believe that was a casual decision. New York is considered more amenable to awarding sole custody to one parent than California, the state where Cruise is expected to seek transfer of the pending proceedings. For her part, Holmes has been characterized as seeking to protect her daughter form further indoctrination into the Scientology religion. Specifically, she is thought to object to any move to enroll the young girl in the church's Sea Org division, which requires a commitment of eternal allegiance and is said to keep children within its fold to the exclusion of parents, an issue that might raise the ire of any parent not committed to the church.

As in Arizona, New York and California typically decide child custody disagreements based on the best interests of the child. If a couple are able to agree on what those interests are, they may be able to avoid having the issue decided for them by a judge. However, if the parents simply cannot compromise, a court will step in and decide what to do. While it remains to be seen if that will be necessary for Holmes and Cruise, it appears certain that the Scientology religion will be part and parcel of any disagreement between the soon to be divorced couple.

Source: Tulsa World, "Holmes reportedly files for divorce to shield child," Rita Sherrow, July 3, 2012

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