Just as Hollywood was settling in for what was expected to be a long and nasty separation, lawyers for the couple said the pair settled less than two weeks after Holmes unexpectedly filed for divorce.
"The case has been settled and the agreement has been signed," Holmes attorney Jonathan Wolfe said in a statement. Cruise's attorney, Bert Fields, also confirmed the settlement in a statement: "Tom is really pleased we got there and so am I."
Representatives for Holmes and Cruse declined to elaborate on the agreement. Wolfe said in a later statement that terms of the settlement were confidential and will not be disclosed.
"We are thrilled for Katie and her family and are excited to watch as she embarks on the next chapter of her life," the statement from Holmes' attorney said. "We thank Tom's counsel for their professionalism and diligence that helped bring about this speedy resolution."
In a joint statement, Cruise, 50, and Holmes, 33, asked for privacy for their family with 6-year-old daughter Suri.
"We are committed to working together as parents to accomplish what is in our daughter Suri's best interests. We want to keep matters affecting our family private and express our respect for each other's commitment to each of our respective beliefs and support each other's roles as parents," read the statement from Cruise's publicist Amanda Lundberg and Holmes representative Nanci Ryder.
The resolution was notably quick, particularly in Hollywood terms. By way of comparison, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are still negotiating a divorce for an August 2011 marriage that lasted less than three months.
"A quick settlement indicates that they were able to agree that they'll both do some co-parenting," said Steve Mindel, a managing partner in the Los Angeles firm Feinberg, Mindel, Brandt and Klein who has handled bi-coastal divorce cases.
Mindel said the next step would be for Holmes or Cruise to file to have their status changed to divorced, but that the actual financial and child custody details won't get filed in court unless there's some later dispute.
The rapid settlement saves the couple from a public battle that was sure to be covered vigorously by the celebrity news media, which had already shifted into hyper-drive.
In the already voluminous tabloid reporting, Holmes had been portrayed with overwhelmingly more sympathy. The emerging narrative, whether true or not, was of a locked-away Holmes breaking free from the servitude of a strange, corrupting marriage.
Us Weekly reported that the couple "fought viciously" over Scientology parenting. The Daily News trumpeted Holmes entering "a new phase." A TMZ headline blared "Tom treated me like a robot."
That may also be the most convenient view of a relationship that even at its start spawned "Free Katie!" T-shirts. In 2005, the couple publically announced their relationship in Rome, famously celebrated it on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and got engaged on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. They were wed in Nov. 2006 at a castle in Bracciano, Italy.
Fields has said they were letting "the other side play the media until they wear everyone out." The Church of Scientology, too, didn't want to be portrayed as the schism between the couple.
The quick settlement and joint statement may put out some of that fire.
"I don't think either of these high-profile celebrities want their dirty laundry aired in technically a public forum," said Russell I. Marnell, an East Meadow, N.Y.-based divorce lawyer who's also licensed in California. "Those kind of factors certainly would lend themselves to try to encourage a resolution."
Cruise has two children with his previous wife, Nicole Kidman. The actor was also previously married to Mimi Rogers. This was Holmes' first marriage.
Their divorce case lasted less than two weeks, but Mindel said that's not uncommon for high-profile breakups: "There's too many incentives on both sides of the equation for settlement."
When actress-singer LeAnn Rimes' husband filed for divorce in December 2009, it only took a day before the couple filed a judgment. Actor-comedian Russell Brand's divorce from singer Katy Perry took a little over a month to resolve, while director Cameron Crowe and singer-guitarist Nancy Wilson resolved their 2010 divorce in less than three months.
Cruise and Holmes may have saved more than just their dignity by not fighting out their divorce in court. A drawn-out custody battle would have likely cost more than a million dollars in legal fees.
"What jumps out at me is how quickly they were able to resolve a multi-million dollar (financial case) and custody issues," likely to be particularly complicated for a couple whose work can take them all over the world, said Paul Talbert, a partner in a New York City matrimonial-law firm that isn't involved in the case.
Said Mindel: "The question's going to be did they have enough time to flesh out how they're going to resolve future disputes."
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney in Los Angeles and Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.