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Family Law Blog

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Religion can be divorce battleground

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It was sad to hear the news that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are to divorce. And it was said their six-year-old daughter would be at the centre of the legal battle. Great news therefore to learn they have come to an agreement already - Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes reach divorce settlement

Too often we see children in divorce being used as pawns with which parents try to score points off each other. However, this case is a little different if you believe half of the reports going around about it. The line that many have taken is that Katie is leaving Tom because of his plans to indoctrinate daughter Suri into the ways of Scientology. This is the highly controversial religion (some call it a cult) founded by science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard in the 50s and based on the idea that we are all descendants of an alien race.

Now Scientology is a controversial topic in itself and I would not want to get into the cons or otherwise of its existence and what followers are required to do. However, looking at the broader picture, the TomKat divorce, as it is apparently being known, does highlight the problems that religion can pose for couples who have different faiths. The issue was highlighted really well in a blog Why did TomKat Divorce? in the Washington Post.

When a couple first meet, I would suggest it is not common for “what religion are you?” to be one of the opening questions. It is perhaps more likely to gain prominence when they talk about marriage and what form they would like their ceremony to take. Then, when any children come along, in what religion should they be raised will be a discussion that needs to take place, particularly if one partner is more devout in a certain church than the other.

The whole world knows about Tom and his Scientology so there is no way Katie Holmes didn’t know about it and I understand their wedding ceremony had some elements of that religion about it, so she was certainly going into this union with her eyes somewhat open. However, it may well have been when she saw how Cruise planned to push their daughter down the road to Scientology rather than letting her grow and make up her own mind that alarm bells really started ringing and ultimately led to her calling time on the marriage.

Religion is a tricky area where there is often little middle ground so it can easily become a battleground for couples, particularly where children are involved. It may be that church elders/leaders can become involved in discussions to help couples get around the issue. It might be that an external support agency, like Relate, is better placed to help married couples talk things through as they are seen as being more impartial.

 I can only hope that the settlement reached by Tom and Katie puts the needs of their daughter first, as they claim.

Andrew Woolley
Family solicitor

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