Lessons from the Holmes-Cruise Divorce

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise reached a settlement agreement in their headline-making divorce only 11 days after Katie filed in New York to end the marriage. The contents of the agreement are confidential, but the statement released by Katie’s legal team, “We are thrilled for Katie and her family and are excited to watch as she embarks on the next chapter of her life,” seems to be a telltale sign that the actress got exactly what she wanted. How did she do it? Here are three key ways Katie’s approach to divorce was incredibly smart:

1. Strong Strategy: Katie’s decision to file for divorce does not appear to be one that was taken lightly or made on the spur of the moment. Holmes already had her divorce lawyer in place before filing, had rented another apartment in New York City, a new nanny and new bodyguards were in place, and she even (allegedly) had all-new cell phone numbers ready to go. Heading into a divorce prepared and organized is a great way to remain above the emotional turmoil.

On the other hand, Cruise only had his business attorney to consult for the first few days before reconnecting with the California divorce attorney he used during his split with Nicole Kidman. Because of the central issue involved in the Cruise-Holmes divorce — custody of daughter Suri — it was a huge disadvantage for Cruise to not have expert counsel from a family law attorney, especially one familiar with New York family law.

2. Clear Goals: By requesting legal custody of Suri in her divorce filings, Katie made it crystal clear that this divorce was not about money, but about the upbringing of their child. The two seem to have signed a pretty thorough prenuptial agreement before their 2006 wedding. This was never mentioned as an issue or something that Katie’s team wished to challenge; the sole focus became helping Katie reach her custody goal.

3. Open to Negotiation: The Holmes legal team had already scheduled a first court date to request a temporary custody and support order on July 17. However, they were still open to settlement talks and negotiations with the other side. It’s important to note that settlement talks, like private divorce mediation, is not binding unless a final agreement is signed. Katie was spotted at her lawyer’s office all weekend as part of full-day negotiations. If no agreement had been reached, or Holmes decided she was not happy with what Cruise’s team was offering, or felt that her custody goal was becoming overly-compromised, the July 17 court date would have still stood. Similarly, entering mediation doesn’t lock you into having a mediated divorce. But for Holmes and Cruise, reaching a non-litigated divorce settlement worked — and in record time.