On another posting, PN said
I apologize if this is terribly off-topic, but can we get some legal analysis on the following story:
Johnny Depp — worth $400M — is being divorced by his actress wife of 15 months. No pre-nup. Does she get half?
Given that the other posting was about an avionics fire in an Airbus A320, I think PN should get an award for “most off topic question ever”! (Though a lot of American divorce plaintiffs do bring a violence angle to their litigation.)
The cited CNN article is interesting for its euphemistic language. She is a lawsuit plaintiff trying to get money out of a defendant (see a California judge’s perspective in “Divorce Litigation”). But the journalist does not write “Amber Heard sues Johnny Depp for divorce, alimony, cash, and her attorney’s fees” which would be an accurate way to describe the “petition” (“complaint” in many other states), whose full text is available at TMZ.
Under California’s community property law, in theory Depp’s premarital savings should be off limits to a divorce plaintiff. If Heard had gotten pregnant during the marriage she would be on track for 18 years of profitable (unlimited in California; see the Ellen Pao analysis) child support (see Scenario 4 in this chapter for a similar fact pattern).
Everything can be litigated, though, and spousal support (alimony) that she is suing for is discretionary with the judge. Lawyers told us that judges like to make sure that women get paid for having sex and within the divorce industry it is common to refer to the length of the marriage as “time served” by a female plaintiff. So Heard could probably count on a larger profit from this encounter with Depp than what she would have earned by going to college and working for a lifetime at the median college graduate wage. On the other hand it will probably be nowhere near $200 million. The lawyers will make out handsomely due to the fact that all of Depp’s assets can be examined, at an hourly fee, to determine which are community property and which are not (Heard’s lawsuit explicitly contemplates her lawyers figuring out what she might have a claim to). To calculate spousal support there needs to be a thorough examination of Heard’s need for alimony and Depp’s ability to pay (see the statute), so everything that each spends can be investigated by lawyers charging close to $1000/hour. They can also litigate the question of who pays for legal fees.
My prediction: When the dust settles the lawyers will have gotten paid a fortune, but Heard won’t net much more from her acquaintance with Depp than what she could have obtained by having quiet one-night encounters with a couple of successful married radiologists and collecting 23 years of child support under Massachusetts law. Heard has no incentive to try to reduce the cost or complexity of this lawsuit because she presumably expects the court to order Depp to pay all of her legal fees (i.e., the defendant will pay for the lawyers on both sides and thus the plaintiff is under no pressure to settle for less than the very maximum she thinks that she might be able to obtain at a trial).
15 thoughts on “Does Amber Heard get half of Johnny Depp’s fortune after a one-year marriage?”
Yeah, but what would that have done to her figure?
Heard and Depp have been married for 15 months, they don’t have children, she is worth $4.5 million , why does she need ANY kind of support from Depp or anyone else? Sure, her lifestyle changed with Depp, but now that she is divorcing, it is back to her old life.
Put another way, when I came back from my 8 days Carnival cruise vacation, I didn’t demand from Carnival to continue offering me the vacation experience in my house at Carnival’s expenses.
richest.com also says net worth $14 million.
Hey — at least I admitted up front that it was off-topic. Here’s a related question: why does the defendant always pay legal fees for both parties? Is it because technically the more wealthy of the two always pays? In a system where the initiator of a suit wants half of the pooled wealth, it would make sense that in all cases the plaintiff is the less wealthy of the two.
There is something else here in addition to the money. It is how she took advantage of his position and network to advance her career and her network. Money are good of course, but the network that she built could’ve much more valuable
> Hey — at least I admitted up front that it was off-topic. Here’s a related question: why does the defendant always pay legal fees for both parties? Is it because technically the more wealthy of the two always pays? In a system where the initiator of a suit wants half of the pooled wealth, it would make sense that in all cases the plaintiff is the less wealthy of the two.
My experience inverts this a bit. Upon first meeting plaintiff and defendant and listening to the lawyers, the judge determines which of the two will best be able to pay all the fees of the court, the lawyers, the various experts, and any court appointed others. Having made that determination, and to ensure the person paying all those fees will remain in a place where he can pay for the next many years, all other judgments on custody, parenting, visitation trivially follow.
It’s not *necessarily* the case the defendant will pay. But it’s likely.
In my case I was the plaintiff and I paid the lawyers because I had the money. So it’s really whoever has the most money to spread around, not who is plaintiff/defendant.
A prostitute arguing with a client over her bill. Nothing new here.
I’m wondering how this relates to his relationship with Vanessa Paradis, who he lived with in France for almost 15 years and had two children with, but there was no marriage. That is, I wonder if the kids create a claim to his assets, limiting what Heard can go for.
Practical: The first person to sue under family law generally has the most rights. If Depp were to die, and die while resident in France, perhaps French law would set limits on how assets were to be distributed. But in this case Depp is still alive and all of his income and wealth are at least theoretically available for harvest via U.S. family courts.
If a plaintiff can get hold of 80 percent of a defendant’s after-tax income via child support, for example, the next plaintiff gets whatever share of the remaining 20 percent that a judge chooses to award.
[How can a plaintiff get 80 percent you might ask? That’s higher than the guideline percentage in all states but most states give judges discretion to award higher amounts. A plaintiff who asserts that a defendant has hidden assets, for example, could obtain an 80-percent award. Another way is that child support awards are seldom reduced even when a defendant’s income is reduced. Suppose that the defendant suffers a reduction in income. An original award of 40 percent of income now turns out to be 80 percent. Attempts to get a reduction to 40 percent of current income are unavailing because a judge finds that the defendant is voluntarily underemployed. The next plaintiff to sue, however, has to start with the presumption that the current income level is the correct one, so the cash value of the children that are the hook for the second lawsuit will be much lower than the cash value of the child or children that gave rise to the first lawsuit.]
[Re-sequenced by moderator]
Listen up, folks! There’s no need to worry about Ms. Amber Heard’s wellbeing anymore. She now has found a protector in the LA Superior court AND IS DOING FINE. This just in over the wires (<10 minutes ago):
A US judge has ordered actor Johnny Depp to stay away from estranged wife, actress Amber Heard, after alleged assault.
On Monday, she filed for divorce from Mr Depp citing irreconcilable differences and has applied for a restraining order.
Ms Heard brought a photograph of herself with a bruised cheek and eye to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
http://www.realworlddivorce.com/DomesticViolence has a Harvard Law School professor’s take on this strategy to achieve instant victory. See also http://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2015/04/29/au-pair-to-green-card/ for how the Violence Against Women Act provides a near-instant Green Card.
So far Amber Heard’s strategy seems pretty standard for a U.S. divorce plaintiff.
Strong and independent right?
She’ll be strong and independent as soon as she gets paid for spreading her legs.
Disagree on the profit potential. Pussy worker prolly betting he’ll pay $20 mil to get out of the headlines.
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