Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes: A genial divorce? What a scandal!
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s amicable settlement is bad news for voyeurs hoping for juicy gossip and public mudslinging.
Tom Cruise and Katie | Scandal
When Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes announced their divorce earlier, we all felt it. Not sadness (sorry, TomKat, you never really convinced us); but, I hate to say, ill-suppressed excitement. The voyeur in us longed for the thrilling courtroom showdown that lay ahead and daydreamed of bust-ups over Suri’s million-pound wardrobe. Would Holmes sue Cruise for making her wear flat shoes? Would the truth about Cruise’s Scientology beliefs be revealed? Would anyone jump up and down on Oprah Winfrey’s sofa?
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Then, a mere 11 days after it started, the TomKat divorce saga ended. Abruptly and “amicably”, without any opportunity to be treated to a good dose of celebrity acrimony. Holmes got sole custody of six-year-old Suri, with generous visiting rights for Cruise, and the couple split their property and assets in a “professional and diligent” manner. Holmes is said to have signed a cast-iron prenuptial agreement before their five-year marriage, and her strict instructions for Suri to be kept away from Scientology were agreed in full.
Go on, try to pretend you aren’t just a tiny bit disappointed. Where was the scandal? The mudslinging? All it took was a six-hour chat in a New York lawyer’s office, and Hollywood’s highest-earning actor (£48 million in the past year alone) was a divorcé once again. “They’ve been very sensible in coming to an agreement so quickly,” says Francine Kaye, relationship counsellor and author of The Divorce Doctor. “Katie has had to cope with a lot – he’s a Scientologist and she absolutely wasn’t going there. They’ve decided their relationship wasn’t working and they’ve ended it in a way that disrupts their child as little as possible.”
Of course, a speedy divorce is in the best interests of the couple – and their daughter, who doesn’t need another excuse for a public tantrum. But what about the rest of us, gearing up for a courtroom clash that would provide months of entertainment? “These kinds of divorces are dinner-party fodder for as long as they’re not boring,” explains Kaye. “By getting it done and dusted within a few weeks, they’ve become yesterday’s chip paper.”
Ayesha Vardag, described as ''Britain’s top divorce lawyer’’, says the personal nature of divorce law makes settlement terms “highly unpredictable”, even when such large sums of money are involved – adding that we may never know what was at the root of Cruise and Holmes’s rapid agreement.
“Sometimes you get parties who can’t take the stress and they settle on something because they can’t bear it any more,” she says. “It could also be that there is something that one party does not want aired in a public forum. This is particularly an issue in celebrity cases.”
Readers of gossip magazines will understand the irresistible allure of celebrity divorces. We put our normally sympathetic selves to one side and gleefully watch the drama unfold. The sheer ridiculousness of the demands, and exorbitance of the assets involved, offer a tantalising peek into how the other half live. The mansions! The fancy cars! The diamond-studded furniture! It’s a rare chance for us ordinary folk to feel smug as the dirty laundry of the rich and famous is hung out to dry – and we get to hear, once and for all, what they really think of each other.
Sir Paul McCartney’s acrimonious split from Heather Mills in 2008 set the bar for preposterous celebrity divorces: a £24.3 million settlement and the “baptism” of Sir Paul’s divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton, over whom Mills threw a jug of water. Before that was “Hollywood’s dirtiest divorce”, between Liza Minnelli and David Gest, involving accusations of drunken violence (her), a murdered pet terrier (him) and hidden herpes (her) – none of which was proved in court, but it fuelled headlines for four years until its conclusion in 2007.
Mel Gibson lost half his fortune to his ex-wife, Robyn Denise Moore, in a £274 million settlement last year, while John Cleese’s £12 million settlement will see him paying out £612,000 a year until 2016. Celebrities can also be relied on to bombard their former partners with a stream of insults at the height of an ugly divorce. Alec Baldwin was recorded calling his 11-year-old daughter a “rude little pig” during a fierce custody battle with her mother, Kim Basinger, in 2002; while Denise Richards labelled Charlie Sheen an abusive, gambling porn addict in her 2006 divorce papers.
“Will Cruise crumble, start drinking and take drugs to cope with his split from Holmes?” asks Rhiannon Ford, a divorce coach. “We put celebrities on these unrealistic pedestals where they are supposed to deal with life’s challenges better than the rest of us. But money and status don’t make it easier to deal with emotions. They are human, too.”
Vardag suspects the TomKat settlement could become a “gold standard” for high-profile divorces, avoiding drawn-out battles before the press. “They obviously have sensible lawyers on both sides,” she says. “Keeping things low profile and managing to come out with your heads held high, even if it means a few less million here or there, is worth it in the long run.”
Nan Cohen, an American divorce expert, agrees. “It’s sour notes for everyone who needs to know the juicy details of what, why and who gets what in terms of money, but Tom and Katie are really smart,” she says. “How selfish of us to want to see all the drama and destruction a divorce can bring. They are looking to the best interests of
Suri and that is better than displaying it in front of all of us.”
But if you were hoping for a messy courtroom battle, fear not. Holmes and Cruise may have disappointed, but on this side of the water, there’s another high-profile break-up clattering its way through the courts. And this divorce is making headlines day after day.
Jennifer and Mark Evans, software millionaires with a company in Pittsburgh, have been described by a judge as “puerile” as they fight over a £26 million settlement that includes homes in the West Indies and a £10.6 million flat in Knightsbridge. The pair have two teenage daughters and have been separated since July 2010 – but that hasn’t put a stop to their mudslinging.
Despite being granted a decree to end the marriage, Mrs Evans has tried to block the document’s process through the courts until she has a “cast-iron guarantee” that her husband will not disperse his shares in their company. At the civil appeal court on Monday, Mr Justice Thorpe, exasperated by the couple’s “profligate extravagance”, urged “somebody to come into the nursery to… dissipate all this nonsense”. Now that’s a proper divorce spat.
As for TomKat, their settlement may have disappointed some, but there’s still scope for a dramatic fall-out in the weeks to come. Fingers crossed for some more sofa-jumping from Cruise. For now, perhaps we’d better leave them alone – and let them pick up the pieces, for their daughter’s sake.
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