As California residents know, the emotional strife that often occurs when ending a long and committed relationship can be tough. But making a decision to get a divorce can be even more difficult when there are hard decisions to be made regarding property division. Items like offshore accounts, business assets, retirement plans and 401(k)s can be difficult to value and even more difficult to split. And those are just the problems with property division. When religion is also involved in a divorce, another layer of strife can enter the equation.
The newsworthy break up of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise has made headlines due to the couple's celebrity status. Reported have surfaced that an underlying issue that relates to the couple's separation is that of their affiliated religion, Scientology.
According to some news sources, Scientology has very strong opinions on divorce. In fact, when the church conducts a wedding, it highlights its expectation that couples remain committed even through the worst of times: "Know that life is stark and often somewhat grim, and tiredness and fret and pain and sickness do beget a state of mind where spring romance is far away and dead."
The church expects its members to undergo extensive counseling when contemplating divorce. It is for this reason that the divorce process for a Scientology member can be extremely long and drawn out. Some members even state that they are expected to undergo some eccentric divorce counseling. One individual recounts that while she and her then husband were contemplating divorce, they underwent a meeting conducted by the church which involved hooking them up to an E-meter while answering questions. Scientologists believe the E-meter reveals unexpressed thoughts.
Ultimately however, an official divorce is granted by a court, not a religious organization. Thus, even a tough critic, like the church, does not have the final say in a decision to divorce.
California is a community property state which means that any property acquired during marriage is split evenly among the separating spouses. However, property not acquired during marriage is maintained by the individual spouse.
Whatever one's religious affiliation, full knowledge of legal rights and obligations pertaining to the divorce process is crucial.
Source: El Paso, Inc., "For scientologists, divorce is no simple matter," Stacie Stole, July 8, 2012