One of my pet peeves is lawyers who allow their clients to file divorce proceedings where they ask for sole custody. That’s what Katie Holmes has done in her divorce filing against Tom Cruise.
It’s an utter waste of time and a surefire way to escalate the conflict in a divorce case. Why do I say this?
Mainly because the days of “ownership” of children are thankfully, long gone. In asking for sole custody a parent is suggesting their partner is not fit to participate in decision-making when it comes to their children and often the notion of sole custody implies drastically limited access time for the non-custodial parent.
As well, parents who accede to their lawyer’s admonition to claim sole custody do not have the best interests of their children in mind and…let me go further…in doing so they display a significant character flaw.
Now before I go too far, I should say that where a parent is a child abuser, an out-of-control drug addict or alcoholic, or has a debilitating psychiatric disorder with little hope of redemption, sole custody may be appropriate. But most custody cases involve two adequate parents who can work together for the good of their child and put aside their anger, disappointment, resentment, and distress over the marriage breakdown.
For the last decade or so, joint custody is the parenting norm. However, many people don’t understand what that entails. Joint custody does not mean equal parenting time, although that may be one aspect of it. Joint custody means shared decision-making with respect to the important decisions required to raise a child: medical, educational, and religious upbringing.
Oh, you say, no wonder Ms. Holmes sought sole custody. She obviously wants to prevent her 6-year-old daughter Suri from being raised in the Church of Scientology. That may be her motive, but I suggest it’s too late for that now.
As I understand it, Katie embraced the doctrine of Scientology, hook, line, and sinker. To persuade a judge that Scientology is now the root of all evil will be an uphill argument. But she is still one step ahead of Mr. Cruise, having moved to New York City with Suri and establishing a new residence. A good strategy for a parent who is wants to exclude the other.
There’s no doubt that the Cruise/Holmes’ family could wage war over their daughter and make several lawyers very rich. I sincerely hope they are smart enough to do the right thing: settle a parenting plan discretely and privately.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang