Monday, July 16, 2012

Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes - two religions - one child?

Many of you may be familiar with the recent divorce of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.  This is a very interesting case for a number of reasons – the speed with which the case was resolved as well as the recent talk that Katie has converted back to Catholicism (from her former religion of Scientology) and enrolled as a parishioner of a Catholic church in Manhattan. 

Why is this issue so talked about since the couple has separated? It stems from the fact that Katie requested in the divorce settlement that she receive sole legal custody of her daughter, Suri. 
There are two forms of custody, legal and physical custody. Joint legal custody refers to the responsibility and authority of parents to consult the other with respect to making major decisions concerning the children’s upbringing, including, but not necessarily limited to, their education, healthcare, and religious training.  When a parent is awarded sole legal custody they may make such decisions without consulting the other parent.  Therefore, an award of sole legal custody to Katie means that she has the authority to determine the religion Suri practices.  Further, there are reports that the terms of the Settlement Agreement specifically prohibit Suri’s involvement with the practice of Scientology.
As you may know, family law issues vary from state to state. In Indiana, a custodial parent granted sole legal custody has the authority to determine the child’s upbringing. In order to limit such authority, the noncustodial parent must show that without any limitations placed on the custodian’s authority over the child, the child would be harmed in some manner. Specifically, it must be shown that the custodian’s authority would endanger the child’s physical health or that the child’s emotional development would be significantly impaired.  Therefore, were the parties to this case to appear in front of an Indiana Court on the issue of religious upbringing after the entry of their Decree of Dissolution, it would be Cruise’s burden to show that Suri’s physical health was endangered or her emotional development was impaired by the practice of Catholicism (should Katie choose to have the child practice such) and, thus, should not be allowed. 
For a discussion on the TomKat proceeding and other issues which arise when the religious upbringing of a child is contested in a family law case, visit the following link:
Obviously, the choice of what religion an individual practices is a very personal choice.  If you are going through a divorce and believe you may experience similar issues with respect to the religious upbringing of your child in the future, you would be well advised to obtain counsel.  One amicable resolution to the issue which you may consider is to allow the child to practice the faith of each parent until the child is old enough to decide the matter for himself/herself.
At Hollingsworth & Zivitz, P.C., our team has the experience, the understanding, and the compassion to assist with your family law needs. If you have questions or concerns regarding divorce, custody, support, or any other family law concerns contact our firm at 317.569.2200 or

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