Conventional wisdom holds that a child will benefit from having a variety of rich relationships — on both sides of a family tree. For that reason, many courts in Michigan and across the country express a preference for joint child custody arrangements.

Yet Katie Holmes does not appear to share that belief. Holmes, who recently filed for divorce from Tom Cruise after 5 years of marriage, is reportedly seeking sole legal child custody of their 6-year-old daughter, Suri, in addition to primary residential custody. With sole legal custody, Holmes would be responsible for the decision-making aspects of parenting, involving virtually all aspects of Suri’s daily life.

Some speculate that Cruise’s devotion to Scientology — a religion whose teachings can oppose traditional medical treatments, including medication and therapy — may explain why Holmes is seeking sole custody. Holmes may prefer for Suri to benefit from the care of Western medicine. Yet Holmes will likely face a child custody battle, as many anticipate Cruise will want to remain a decision-maker in Suri’s life.

At a minimum, Holmes will likely have to provide some basis for overcoming the presumption favoring joint custody. There are several reasons why courts in Michigan may favor shared parenting responsibilities. For one, joint legal custody ensures both parents stay closely involved in a child’s day-to-day life, even when the child is not physically present because he or she is staying in the other parent’s residence.

Another reason might be the damaging effects that custody battles can have on children. For example, a child custody battle may subject a child to interviews by third parties such as police, custody evaluators, lawyers, counselors, and in the case of false accusations, possibly even child protective services. During the dispute, a child may also lose significant contact with one parent, hear parents falsely accuse each other, experience a potentially reduced standard of living in one or both homes, and lose opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities due to time or financial issues.

If you are facing a child custody dispute, an attorney can review your family dynamic and help you understand when it might be best to seek sole custody of your minor children.

Source: Fox News, “In seeking sole custody, does Katie Holmes need evidence Tom Cruise is dud dad?” Hollie McKay, July 2, 2012