Last week, we brought our Georgia family law blog readers the news that Katie Holmes had filed for divorce from Tom Cruise after five years of marriage. In that blog post, we speculated that one of the most contentious issues of the divorce would likely be the custody of the couple’s six-year-old daughter, Suri. If the entertainment media is to be believed, that appears to be the case.
In those reports, it is alleged that Holmes filed for divorce in order to keep Suri out of the control of officials within the Scientology religion, of which Cruise is one of the most widely-known proponents. If that is the case, what will it take for the court to award full custody to Katie and keep Suri from Tom?
In every U.S. state, the standard for awarding custody is the “best interests of the child.” Therefore, in order for Katie to be granted full legal and primary physical custody, as she has requested, she will likely have to prove that Cruise has some fairly serious shortcomings when it comes to Suri. In general, courts prefer to grant joint legal custody unless there is evidence of abuse or some other egregious behavior.
But this is where Cruise’s religion may play in. Legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding a child’s medical care, education, child care and the like. Scientology opposes medication and psychiatric care, so it is possible that Cruise could refuse his daughter medical care under the direction of his religion. If the judge decides that is a likely possibility, Holmes may be granted sole legal custody.
Source: Fox News, “In seeking sole custody, does Katie Holmes need evidence Tom Cruise is dud dad?” Hollie McKay, July 2, 2012