Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes Divorce Settlement: She Could Pocket $50m, Says Family Law Expert
With the lightning-fast divorce settlement now in a lawyers' agreement, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise are looking forward.
And Holmes could be looking forward to a tidy lump sum, says a top legal scholar -- which may be much higher than initial estimates, not including a surely lavish to-be-determined figure of child support.
"I probably make the estimate between $20 million to, maybe, 40, 20 to 50," celebrity family attorney Lisa Helfend Meyer told Celebuzz, of how much Holmes will likely receive as a lump sum in the settlement. "A reasonable range, to me, would be between $20 and 30 [million]. That's a lot of money. Plus, she gets her child support. In California, it's usually 7-10% of a person's income -- which, in [Cruise's] case, would make it exorbitant. Assuming his income is $20 million a year, in California, he's a high income earner. Therefore, the amount of [child] support is based on Suri's reasonable needs."
Meyer added, "I think the deal was basically [Holmes] got primary custody in New York, which has very liberal visitation rights, and a lump sum amount of money. I think there was a lot of money attached to the settlement."
What may have surprised some is how quickly the divorce settlement took -- conceived over barely a week. Certainly not acrimonious, or with major sticking points, it appears.
"[Cruise] knew that she meant business," said Meyer. "I think what she did was basically say to him, 'If you're not reasonable with me, I'm going to take this public.'"
Meyer's firm, Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers, LLP, currently represents Illusion Millan in her divorce from Dog Whisperer star Cesar Millan and Gossip Girl star Kelly Rutherford in her ongoing rocky divorce proceedings with Daniel Giersch. They also have handled numerous Scientology divorces, Meyer said -- and the pre-nuptial agreement of Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom.
The quickness of Cruise and Holmes' settlement -- announced Monday morning as a mutually positive arrangement for both Cruise and Holmes -- is largely a byproduct of Holmes' attorneys (Jonathan Wolfe, Gary Skoloff, with co-counsel Aronson Mayefsky and Sloan, and Walzer & Melcher), said Meyer. Their heading off of Cruise's legal armada, including Dennis Wasser, without hint of early notice -- being the first party to strike first -- helped her gain an advantage.
"What [Holmes] did was, she created the opportunity to settle the case by filing as quickly as she did. I think this was brilliantly conceived and orchestrated," Meyer said. "I think that her team was a force to reckon with. They wanted to ensure that she was on a level playing field. What they did was -- remember in his past two divorces [from Nicole Kidman in 2001, and Mimi Rogers in 1990], he has always filed first. They knocked the wind out of his sails, by, filing first, completely blindsiding him."
WHAT DID CRUISE GET?
Cruise's big gain in the settlement may have been a token of spiritual freedom for daughter, Suri, 6. Specifically mentioned in a joint statement from Holmes and Cruise's publicists, released Monday, is a nod toward freedom of belief choices for Suri -- and perhaps Cruise's famously beloved Scientology.
"We are committed to working together as parents to accomplish what is in our daughter Suri's best interests. We want 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," Cruise and Holmes said in the Monday statement, through their respective reps, Amanda Lundberg and Nanci Ryder.
"Respective beliefs" was not a coincidental mention, Meyer said.
"What [Cruise] got in exchange, they each have the right to expose their child to their religious beliefs," she said. "That little blurb they wrote, that they will respect each other's religious beliefs -- I think what that means is that in the divorce, they both get to expose Suri to, in her situation, Catholicism, and in his situation, Scientology."
Another thing to watch out for is that Cruise (or Holmes) may eventually opt to change the terms of Suri's custody or support -- in Cruise's California, instead of Holmes' New York.
"One of the things I think he exacted out of her in exchange for primary custody, I think the case is going to be filed in California. And that's why they have a California attorney. I think the final orders are going to be in California," Meyer said. "It might surprise people, because Katie is going to be living [in New York] with Suri -- but, I think it's not surprising because he's a very controlling person. Of course he's going to want it [in California]. This is where his life primarily is, and where all his professionals are, and where he's most comfortable. So, I assume the judgment is going to be filed in California. Why that's important is that child support and child custody are also modifiable. So, she's 6. For the next 12 years, if either one of them want to modify child custody or support, it will be done in California."
And, Cruise gets to keep a enormous chunk of his wealth -- something not every celebrity divorcee has escaped with.
No more court hearings, for one -- including custody hearings.
Just a basics lawyers' agreement is in place -- a deal memo -- which is then turned into a more comprehensive martial settlement agreement. Finally, in the next week or two, both sides will draft a full settlement agreement. Missing, though, will likely be juicy specific dollar amounts and salacious details. Said Meyer, "Bare bones."