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When Spiritual Custody is the Issue

Posted on in Family Law
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The media spotlight that is shining on the Tom Cruise – Katie Holmes divorce is also shining the light on an aspect of what can sometimes be an issue in child custody cases, but is not one frequently discussed. The issue of spiritual custody can be one that parents do not agree upon, yet also one that the courts are very reluctant to address. Judges will address issues such as education, housing and medical when it comes to protecting the child’s best interest, but usually leave it to the parents to decide the child’s religious upbringing.

Tom Cruise has been a very prominent member of the Church of Scientology for years. Katie Holmes was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. The Chicago Tribune spoke with a source they say is familiar with the negotiations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. That source told the Tribune that so far, the couple has agreed that Holmes will have custody of their six year old daughter Suri, with Cruise allowed visitation. Holmes will also have final say in Suri’s education.

The source also shared that most of the discussions between the lawyers for both sides have been determining what role Scientology would have for Suri. Holmes wants it negotiated into their settlement that ensures that when Cruise has their daughter during visitations, he will not take any actions in attempt to “alienate” Suri from her mother.

The couple, in a joint statement issued about their divorce, said, "We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other's commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other's roles as parents.” Some observers believe that this statement indicates just how strongly the issue of Suri’s spiritual custody is in these negotiations.

Most family law experts agree that unless there is a threat of immediate or substantial harm to the child, the courts will not intervene and will not rule on the validity of one parent’s religion over the other. If you are involved in a custody dispute, consult with an experienced Chicago family law attorney to make sure that you and your family’s rights are protected.

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