Earlier this week, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise signed their divorce settlement, reaching an agreement faster than most Hollywood couples. While details of the arrangement remain private, sources say that Suri, the couple’s six-year-old daughter, will live in New York with her mother, while her father will have generous visitation rights.
In order to better understand the ins-and-outs of this process, we spoke with Judge Lynn Toler, who hosts ‘Divorce Court,’ the longest-running court show on television. Since 2006, Judge Toler has brought both tenacity and compassion to the courtroom, focusing on the relationship at hand and dispensing helpful advice to real litigants.
The media has paid much attention to the role of Scientology in Holmes’s decision to divorce Cruise. And for good reason, according to Judge Toler. While it’s not something that she sees frequently in her courtroom, she understands why it’s very intense when it does happen. “Religion doesn’t often have a role in divorce cases, but when it does, it is very difficult to deal with because people’s beliefs aren’t something you can really compromise on.”
Another point of interest in this divorce case is Holmes’s request for full-custody of Suri. Judge Toler, though, isn’t surprised by her bold approach. “She knew what she wanted, and she moved quickly and decisively. I think that she asked for what she wanted because of the concerns that she had for her daughter.”
She adds, “After all, isn’t that a mother’s job?”
In a joint statement, Holmes and Cruise said that they are doing whatever they can to keep Suri’s best interests in mind. By agreeing to the terms of their divorce in such a rapid manner, Judge Toler believes that they already did a tremendous thing for their daughter. “Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your children is to not get everything you want. Tom gave up legal custody but settled for generous visitation rights.”
While it may seem like Cruise should fight for more time with his daughter, Judge Toler supports the resolution to their custody battle. “You have to ask yourself if dividing their time between you and your ex is the best thing for you or the best thing for your kids,” she explains. “Children need a stable environment, some place they can call home where the rules are always the same.”
Perhaps the most surprising part of this celebrity divorce is the swiftness of their settlement. “I believe that both of them had too much to lose by dragging it out,” Judge Toler explains. “I also believe that the church of Scientology didn’t want to get involved with it, which certainly would’ve happened. Tom didn’t want to expose himself or his church to that kind of scrutiny.”
Next up for Holmes and Cruise: They will present their settlement to the courts and wait for it to be approved before they’ll be grated a divorce decree. Judge Toler doesn’t foresee any future issues though, explaining that “the courts love when couples settle as quickly and amicably as these two. They really like the parties to come to a resolution on their own.”
As for any advice for the pair as their divorce continues to play out, Judge Toler says she has none. “I think they’re doing it right! They didn’t let their emotions get ahead of what they needed to do. I say continue on and good luck.”
Click here for local listings of ‘Divorce Court,’ which is currently airing its thirteenth season in syndication nationwide. Keep your eyes open for Judge Toler’s new book, ‘Making Marriage Work: New Rules for an Old Institution,’ set to be released later this summer.
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