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Family Law Specialist Cara Nuttall on Tom and Katie's Separation Arrangements

There are extensive reports that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have reached a settlement as regards the consequences of their Separation just nine days after Katie Holmes filed for Separation in New York. If the reports are accurate then it appears the couple have been able to reach a Separation Agreement both in regard to how their Finances on Separation are to be divided and how their daughter, Suri, will be raised.

Much has been made in the press over the last nine days of speculation that Suri's future and particularly her involvement in Scientology, was a key factor in Katie's decision to Divorce and to apply for sole custody of Suri, though of course it is not known to what extent (if any) this is true.

The reports suggest that Katie has been granted sole custody of Suri (something we do not have here in England) and that a schedule of visitation (or contact, as it is referred to in England) with Tom has been agreed. Further, it is reported that detailed practical considerations for facilitating contact have been agreed and are encompassed in the document, including a requirement that Suri is always accompanied by members of Katie's personal staff when visiting Tom. It is also reported that the document contains clauses which deal with Suri's involvement both with Scientology itself and with people associated with it, which effectively prohibit her from having any involvement with the controversial religion.

Obviously it is not known how accurate the reports are, however the case serves as a useful example of the wide range of issues parents have to consider when deciding how to raise their Children following a Separation, and the range of matters with which the court can deal if there is no agreement. It is however important to remember that the law in America is very different from that here, and that the reported agreement is not necessarily something which could be emulated in its entirety here in England. For example, it is unusual for a court to sanction 'supervision' during contact with a parent unless there is a clear risk to the child involved and it is also unusual for a court to restrict with whom a parent can socialise during contact again, unless there is a clear risk posed to the child by a particular individual. Obtaining a clear understanding of the matters in regard to which a court will and will not adjudicate and how the law will be applied at an early stage can facilitate a swift agreement being reached, such as by Katie and Tom, as this helps to avoid unnecessary disputes based in misunderstandings of what rights and responsibilities everyone has.  Many Children Lawyers would also endorse the couple's ability to reach an agreement (even if there are issues upon which they have each had to compromise, rather than get their own way) in order to avoid the stress and unpleasantness of contested litigation, something which is almost always in the best interests of the child concerned.

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