With all the buzz about Katie Holmes and her miraculous coup and quick settlement, I would be remiss if I did not share with the public the realities of divorce. What most people do not realize is that the calculated strategy employed by Katie is really no different than what most competent and cutting edge divorce attorneys utilize daily. Divorce can be an ugly business. In fact, most acrimonious divorce cases require daily strategy updates and advance planning.
The key to any case, whether it be divorce or a contract dispute, is leverage. In order to obtain a key advantage, it is necessary to determine the weaknesses and strengths of your opponent. Once you have this, a game plan and several options is necessary to procure the end result. This is no different than using all your manpower in order to go for the jugular. In Katie’s case, Tom’s weaknesses were the two S’s: Suri and Scientology. With the assistance of her dream team, Katie embarked on a path I named in my divorce practice, the “manipulative straightjacket approach,” namely, Katie pretended she still loved Tom while she set up house in New York and used throw away phones and attorneys to devise her ultimate life.
Katie was smart to file for divorce in New York even though the couple’s main residence was in California. First, it gives her a home court advantage because she and Suri were residing in New York and had actually moved out of the marital home away from Tom. Second, if she wanted to win full custody, in the state of New York, family law judges tend to avoid giving equal parenting decision-making power to two parents whose relationship has grown contentious. It is obvious that Katie wanted sole legal custody because she did not want Suri entering the church of Scientology. Sole legal custody grants the custodian decision-making privileges on matters such as the child’s religious upbringing. Lastly, filing in New York gave her more privacy because the files are sealed in New York where they are not in California.
Another bold move which I believe forced settlement from Tom’s camp was for Katie to file for an emergent hearing in the New York court for temporary custody, support and supervised visitation which was to occur on July 17, 2012. This hearing would have forced Tom to testify openly in the New York courts about scientology and rearing Suri. Pressure from the Scientology Kronies was no doubt the reason this case settled quickly before the hearing.
Valuable lessons can be learned from this case. First, plan your divorce strategy well in advance and do not discuss your plan with anyone but your counsel. Second, locate attorneys who will assist you in a viable game plan and several options to attain your goals. Third, keep meticulous records of assets and liabilities and important information which may impact custody. Lastly, if you are unhappy in your marriage like Katie, remember “Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.”