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Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' divorce: The Scientology factor

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise attend the "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" premiere on Dec. 19, 2011, in New York. Getty

(CBS News)  In the week since Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise after five years of marriage, there's been a great deal of speculation but very few facts have emerged. 

What we do know is that Holmes filed in New York and is seeking privacy. She has requested sole custody of the couple's daughter, 6-year-old Suri, according to reports.

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A pre-nup is in place, too, which means much of the financial dealings are probably already laid out for the Hollywood couple. This leaves the custody of Suri, who's been spotted around New York this week with Holmes, at issue.

But when it comes to the divorce, will Scientology play a role? Cruise has been a prominent Scientology member for years, and  the couple were wed by a Church of Scientology minister. spoke with New York-based divorce and family attorney Raoul Felder, listed as one of New York Law Journal's 100 Most Powerful Lawyers in America.

"The test in custody anywhere in the United States is simply the best interest of the child," said Felder, who added, "Scientology would not play very well, certainly in New York. Maybe a little better in California."

"There's a gorilla in the room, and it's Scientology," said Felder, who's been involved with divorce cases for Elizabeth Taylor and Liza Minnelli. "Then there's the jumping on the couch, and this is his [Cruise's] third marriage."

"The court will also look at -- if he [Cruise] travels a lot more for work that she [Holmes] does," added divorce attorney Joshua Forman, a partner at New York's Chemtob Moss Forman & Talbert, LLP. "The court looks at who will be more of the mainstay in the child's life."

Holmes' divorce move appears to have been carefully planned. Her father, Martin Holmes, happens to be a lawyer -- and one who specializes in divorce cases. Felder thinks the 33-year-old actress' father is likely "running the show."

According to the Los Angeles Times, the former "Dawson's Creek" star hired two prominent New York attorneys to handle her case, including Allan E. Mayefsky, who was involved in the high-profile Christie Brinkley divorce. Also on her team is divorce lawyer Jonathan Wolfe, who according to his bio, specializes in "complex matrimonial matters."

But will the split be complex?

Felder thinks Cruise will want to make the proceedings as painless as possible, particularly because of his religious ties.

"I've had experience with Scientology over the years," Felder said about previous work with divorce cases. "They [Scientologists] will never let him go the whole length. They control him, I suspect."

Meanwhile, the Church of Scientology has denied sending anyone to keep tabs on Holmes in the days since the split.

An attorney for the Church said in a statement, obtained by, "There is no truth whatsoever to the report (or any other report) that the Church of Scientology has sent anyone to follow or surveil Katie Holmes."

The divorce will likely play out over the summer, though it's still unclear whether it will be heard in New York, or shifted to California.

"The judge who was assigned this case in New York is a very street-smart guy," Felder noted. "He's very experienced."

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