It was headline news last month when Katie Holmes, 33, filed for divorce from Tom Cruise after five years of marriage. Disappointing the tabloids, they reached a settlement just eleven days later.
In contrast to the divorce drama of other famous couples, these two came to agreement in record time. This included not only financial matters, but also the custody of their six year old daughter.
Rare is the divorce that settles in a matter of days, or even weeks, especially where one of the parties (Mr. Cruise in this case) reports the divorce as a surprise.
In a typical divorce with children and assets, there are dozens of issues to be resolved. Valuation of property, holiday parenting time schedules, terms of the sale of assets, division of retirement, and tax considerations are just a few. For an attorney to advise a client on settlement, a vast amount of information from both spouses and sometimes experts is required.
Without full disclosure of essential information, no zealous advocate will encourage an immediate settlement. It’s impossible to know whether your agreement is fair and reasonable without the relevant facts.
So how did TomKat do it? We can’t know for sure. But what we do know is that there was enough money to go around. With Cruise being the top earning actor in the country, their combined assets reportedly approached $300 million. When you are assured of financial security for the rest of your life, it’s a lot easier not to quibble about the details.
We also know they had a prenuptial agreement. Given that this was a third marriage for the wealthy Cruise, this would be customary. Absent a challenge to the validity of the prenup, the document they signed most likely set forth all financial matters including who gets what and who pays what to whom. Prenuptial agreements also include sworn disclosures of the assets of both parties.
And you? No prenup? No hundreds of millions? Still want to settle? Even when there is full disclosure of information and when money is abundant, people wanting to promptly resolve their divorces without going to court need more.
The divorcing couple need to be willing to settle, and they need lawyers who will support the settlement process.
If a marriage that’s dissolving has not taught you that there are things you can change and there are things you cannot, your divorce process will. You simply cannot force your spouse to settle. (Not any more than you could get them to change their ways when you were living together).
You can negotiate. You can mediate. You can litigate. But to settle a case requires something else that both Tom and Katie had. Two willing parties.
It takes two, baby. It takes two.