Johnny Depp; should have got a pre-nup…

When it comes to marriage and divorce, celebrity status is definitely a double-edge sword, as Johnny Depp is discovering (again) this week. 


His short marriage to Amber Heard is heading to a messy end after Ms Heard filed for divorce. Just a week later, she obtained a temporary restraining order on Mr Depp from a Los Angeles court, citing repeated assaults. Police were called to the couple’s home, but on arrival were unable to establish if a crime had been committed. Ms Hearn declined to file a report at the time but later gave a statement to Los Angeles police.


In the face of the accusation of domestic abuse, Depp’s lawyer stated that Heard was “Attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.” Depp’s ex-partner and ex-wife have both come out publicly and stated that in their experience, Depp was in no way physically abusive, a statement supported by Depp’s own daughter.


From the social media storm that has happened in the wake of these events, it is clear that some are keen to accuse Heard of making it up, as Johnny is a popular figure. This accusation would be grossly unfair to a genuine victim in an abuse case. As of 3 June, however, the LAPD have not opened an investigation against Depp.


Definitely not third time lucky

Depp’s first marriage was to make-up artists Lori Anne Allison in 1983, a short-lived union that lasted two years. As his film career blossomed, he met French singer Vanessa Paradis and the relationship lasted until 2012. At the time of their split, despite the couple not being married and being under no legal obligation to do so, Depp gave Paradis a $150million settlement, half of his then fortune.****


Both Paradis and Alison rushed to state that the picture painted by Ms Hearn of Depp was not the man they knew. In a letter to the celebrity website TMZ*, Ms Paradis wrote:

“In all the years I have known Johnny, he has never been physically abusive with me, and this looks nothing like the man I lived with for 14 wonderful years.”


In contrast to “14 wonderful years”, Depp’s marriage to Ms Hearn lasted just 15 months. With the allegations of domestic abuse, the divorce quickly turned from celeb gossip to headline news in a matter of hours.


Claim and counter-claim

Ms Hearn originally filed for divorce on 23 May, citing irreconcilable differences and claiming spousal support. In reply, Depp asked the court to deny Ms Hearn’s support application. Ms Hearn then applied and obtained the court restraining order, stating that Depp had been abusive throughout the four-year relationship, and submitting photographic evidence of bruising to her face and damaged items at their home.


In her declaration, Hearn said that:

“(Johnny) has a short fuse. He is often paranoid and his temper is extremely scary for me as it has proven many times to be physically dangerous and/or life-threatening to me.”


Depp’s lawyer responded with the statement that:

“Her current application for a temporary restraining order along with her financial requests appears to be in response to the negative media attention she received earlier this week after filing for divorce.”


Spend, spend, spend

Hearn submitted financial documents to the court in support of her claim for $50,000 per month in spousal support. These figures showed that she is spending $10,000 on rent, $2,000 on groceries, $10,000 on entertainment and holidays, and most Hollywood of all, $10,000 on pet care and her agent. Her income from her own acting career does not cover this level of expenditure, being paid ‘just’ $31,112 for her role in The Danish Girl, and $65,000 for her role in Magic Mike XXL. *****


Mud sticks

There is potentially a lot more than just money at stake. Depp is one of the world’s highest paid actors, with a new Alice Through the Looking Glass film released just as the divorce was filed, and the franchise reboot Pirates of the Caribbean film, Dead Men Tell No Tales, slated for release in 2017. The actor is also in Europe touring with his band, the Holllywood Vampires.


The negative publicity created by the divorce case and the accusations of abuse are the stuff of a film promoter’s nightmare. Depp’s reputation for restoring his own image has not always met with success either. After the infamous Dog-gate incident, where Hearn was charged by the Australian authorities for illegally importing the couple’s dogs into Australia, the couple released a video apology that failed to impress (or convince).


Depp need look no further than Mel Gibson for how abusive behaviour can stop a career in its tracks. Gibson split from his wife after his arrest for drink driving, and she sued for divorce after Gibson announced his mistress Oksana Grigorieva was having his baby.


Three years later, Gibson admitting hitting Grigorieva and in 2012 his own step-mother filed for a restraining order after Gibson allegedly spat in her face. Only a reboot of the popular “Expendables’ franchise, in which Gibson played the bad guy, saw the actor return to some form of box office favour.


Sadly, the new Alice film is unlikely to restore Depp in the public eye either, failing to pull in the fans at the box office at its opening weekend. However, the $50million it could net Depp could prove more than enough to fund Hearn’s divorce settlement.


Tell it to the judge

Furthermore, the leaking of information and images to the press could affect the outcome in court. As one American divorce attorney said:

“Leaking information only adds fuel to the fire, causes more stories and provokes more negative responses from the other side. Judges also hate it and they are the ones that ultimately decide the case.”******

However, it is unlikely the judge will issue a restraining order against further disclosures to the press, as no jury is involved in family law cases in the US.


No pre-nup?

No worries Unlike other high profile divorce cases, the lack of a pre-nup agreement may not be such an issue as it might appear at first. Under Californian divorce law, assets from a marriage are divided equally. All premarital assets and inherited assets are retained by the individual.


So, while this divorce case will no doubt prove expensive for Depp, the settlement should only amount to half what he earned in their one year of marriage.


Of course, in Depp’s case, this could be an eye-watering amount. Financial site Forbes*** estimate that Depp earned almost $30 million in 2015 alone, which would give Hearn a settlement of $15 million for just over one year of marriage. Depp’s amassed $400 million of wealth would not affected, and Hearn herself is estimated to be worth in excess of $4.5 million


While the lack of a pre-nup won’t dent Depp’s established fortune, that’s only because the divorce case was filed in California, just one of eight US states that divides income equally. Had Ms Hearn gone jurisdiction shopping, the outcome for Depp could have been very, very different…





* as cited in The Telegraph

*article from People 

*** article in The Daily Mail

**** item from Hollywood Life

***** quoted in USA Today

****** from Hollywood Reporter