LOS ANGELES – In less time than it takes most Hollywood couples to pick out their outfits for an awards show, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes hammered out the details of their much-discussed divorce.
Eleven days after Holmes filed for divorce in a New York court, the former power couple announced Monday they had reached a divorce settlement, releasing a joint statement requesting privacy and expressing their desire 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.”
The wording of the statement hinted that religious differences were behind the fracture, as Cruise is the world's most famous Scientologist, while Holmes came into the marriage a Catholic.
“It is hard to say for sure whether Scientology was the sole reason for Katie’s decision to file for divorce, but there certainly is reason to believe that Scientology played a strong role. This is pretty much confirmed in the joint statement released by the parties’ attorneys referring to respecting Tom and Katie’s ‘respective beliefs,’” attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “Katie played this out like a master chess player. Such bold, public moves like filing in New York and seeking sole custody of their daughter, were clearly intended to send a message to Tom that she is willing to fight this battle and do so publicly, something that could harm him more than her.”
New York family law practitioner Lubov Stark agreed, suggesting Holmes “planned this in a very aggressive and strategic way, gaining a lot of leverage by way of public opinion and media exposure.”
The speed in which a settlement was reached had other legal eagles positing an prenup might have come into play.
Leading divorce attorney Mike Kelly said the pair finished up quickly what is often a drawn-out, ugly affair "possibly because of an airtight prenuptial agreement or extreme gentlemanliness by Tom Cruise, given the way that Katie Holmes started the process.”
Sedaghatfar pointed out that may have Holmes passed up big money to get full custody of Suri.
“Katie might have agreed not to challenge the prenup or demand an excessive amount of child support in exchange for certain primary custody rights of Suri,” Sedaghatfar explained. “I’m sure Katie’s agreement not to challenge the prenup played a role in her getting what she really wanted out of the settlement.”
Cruise’s former auditor in the Church of Scientology Marty Rathbun, a vehement critic of the controversial religion, sees the church's leader David Miscavige playing a role.
“Likely terms Miscavige/Cruise will obtain at an astronomical price is (a) Katie signs a document that indicates joint/equal custody. However, there will be a side agreement (that will sit locked up in their lawyer’s safes) that gives Katie sole custody, control over education, and some visitation rights to Tom,” he wrote on his blog. “And (b) Katie signs a document that indicates that Scientology was never an issue nor consideration in the filing for divorce… Miscavige, at bottom, loves the victim card.”
Church of Scientology legal rep Gary Soter declined further comment, noting that “this is and always was a private family matter and the Church will continue to respect their privacy.” He also said with respect to the Miscavige/Cruise relationship, “it would be inappropriate to discuss individual parishioners.”
Others credited the couple's legal teams for the quick split.
“They both had competent lawyers, a good lawyer is your best ally,” said New York-based attorney Malcolm S. Taub. “It would only be speculation to state that Scientology had a major role in the divorce settlement. These types of settlements hinge on so many factors that one can only guess as to the factors which might lead to a settlement. This issue is always, what is in the best interests of the children. Religion might be one factor in reaching that determination, but it is still only one factor.”
But it seems we all will only ever be able to guess the finer details of the Hollywood divorce.
“The settlement agreement likely includes a bullet proof confidentiality clause which means the public will never know any of the details, I am sure Tom made sure of that,” Sedaghatfar said. “There was no way Tom would allow this fight to be aired in the court system for the world to see.”