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Louisiana parents watching child custody result in Cruise divorce

The divorce between actress Katie Holmes and her movie-star husband Tom Cruise is as topical as it was a week ago, when we discussed the couple's possible property split. Even with millions of dollars at stake, the larger conflict in the celebrities' divorce could be a stumbling block that also affects many New Orleans couples -- child custody.

Katie Holmes's divorce petition included a request for full custody of the couple's daughter, Suri. Many courts, particularly in the couple's home state of California, prefer that parents work out a joint custody agreement. Legal experts say the actress may have filed in New York purposely to increase chances she will receive full custody.

Analysts predict Holmes could win the custody battle even if she chooses not to raise the couple's 6-year-old daughter in the Church of Scientologist, her husband's chosen religion.

Judges often approve asset division that closely follows prenuptial agreements. Child-rearing issues are different. A judge may decide that parents should share decision making over certain areas of a child's life like religious upbringing, medical care or education. If parents' beliefs are in extreme conflict, a court may determine joint custody is "unworkable."

Cruise's attachment to Scientology could hurt the actor's custody efforts. The church has a negative opinion of mental illness treatments and medications. A judge may rule that the young child's health and well-being are not best served by the church.

Actress Nicole Kidman rarely sees the two children she and Cruise adopted during his second marriage. The children were older when the couple divorced and already steeped in the church's teachings. The Church of Scientology has been known to indoctrinate children as members as young as age six, the same age as Suri.

In any case involving custody of a child, whether it takes place in New York, California or Louisiana, the wellbeing of the child should be the most important factor.

Source: The Daily Beast, "Why Katie Holmes May Win Custody," Nancy Hass, July 7, 2012

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