Right at the top of the list of couples you didn’t think would last into 2017: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.
Not that the warring actors are in any danger of getting back together, of course. Rather, it’s just that they’re still technically married and fast coming up on eight months since Heard filed for divorce.
Now, these things can be over in six months in California, should the two parties be willing—and it actually seemed for a hot second that Johnny and Amber, as ugly as the proceedings were right out of the gate, were actually going to have their split in the bag within that time frame.
Alas, if it doesn’t look that simple at first…it probably isn’t that simple in the end.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the exes said in a joint statement upon confirming the news on Aug. 16 that they had reached an out-of-court settlement. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.
“Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future. Amber will be donating financial proceeds from the divorce to a charity.
First of all, the settlement announcement came just ahead of a hearing date, one that had already been rescheduled multiple times while the two sides tried to come to terms in a more private fashion. Heard’s camp had maintained that she would testify if need be, but understandably Depp’s lawyer was doing everything possible to avoid that possibility.
But surely the less public route prevented even more pain for everyone involved. And as experts predicted, their divorce was ending in quiet, undramatic and incredibly ordinary (for celebrities, at least) fashion after such a noisy beginning.
Everything seemed to be going along accordingly when later in August Depp cut checks to the ACLU and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles in Heard’s name, the two organizations whom she wanted to split the reported $7 million settlement.
There was just one hitch…
Calling Depp’s direct donations “great and unexpected news,” a member of Heard’s team told E! News, “However, if Johnny wishes to change the settlement agreement, we must insist that he honor the full amount by donating $14 million to charity, which, after accounting for his tax deduction, is equal to his $7 million payment obligation to Amber.
You’re allowed to make charitable deductions of up to 50 percent of your gross income, so presuming Depp was going to make at least $14 million in 2016 (which as the most overpaid actor in Hollywood once again, he did), if he donated the whole $7 million to charity he could deduct that amount from his gross income. And Amber found that pretty lame.
(Alimony is tax deductible, but making a lump-sum payment like this one to Heard would disqualify Depp from the alimony deduction.)
And the disagreement over the mode of payout was only the first bump in the post-settlement road.
In November, Heard appeared in a domestic violence PSA in which she never referred to a particular perpetrator but did say, “When it happens behind closed doors with someone you love, it’s not as straight-forward [as] if a stranger did this. As it was pointed out to me, if a stranger did this, it would be a no-brainer.”
As par for the course, their divorce settlement included a confidentiality agreement and, while Heard didn’t explicitly say she was talking about Depp, she very much seemed to be telling her own story. She also penned an essay for the December issue of Porter Magazine in which she wrote, “I never felt anyone would or could rescue me, so naturally I resented the label of victim.”
Meanwhile, neither Heard nor Depp had signed off for good on their divorce because they still disagreed over how those charities were going to get their money. TMZ reported Nov. 28 that the ACLU and Children’s Hospital had yet to receive more than the initial $100,000 that Depp gave each of them. A day later, E! News learned that Heard also sent the ACLU a $350,000 check herself in August, her assumption being that she’d be reimbursed by the settlement.
At the time, meanwhile, Heard’s lawyer was hopeful that they’d sign off on the settlement within days.
On Dec. 1, a source told E! News that Depp had agreed to give Heard the rest of the money, $6.8 million by then, directly and their divorce settlement was finally in its final stages.
And yet, two weeks later, Depp hadn’t yet signed off and Heard’s team filed a Request for Order—meaning she wanted a judge to enforce the pre-arranged terms of their settlement, i.e. get her her money. According to the filing, she also was still waiting for Depp to send her whatever stuff she had left at his home on his private island in the Bahamas, transfer the Range Rover she’d been driving into her name and settle outstanding debts for cars, Neil Lane jewelry and stylist fees.
Heard denied violating their confidentiality agreement, which Depp claimed she did by announcing her intention to donate the money to charity, and accused the actor’s camp of being just as shady by leaking information to the press that painted her in an unflattering light.
A week after that, Depp filed a request for $100,000 in monetary sanctions—a financial penalty, basically—for, in his eyes, dragging these proceedings along “in a desperate attempt to extend her fifteen minutes of fame” and “fleeting relevance.”
If she didn’t fork over the $100K (which was to go toward the $1 million his filing says he’s racked up in legal fees), the filing stipulated, then Depp would want to deduct that amount from his next payment to her.
“The impact of her relentless pursuit on Johnny—the damage her false allegations have caused his personal and professional reputation, his and his family’s emotional well-being, and his finances appears to be of no interest to Amber,” the filing continued. Moreover, he claims, she had violated their confidentiality agreement “almost weekly.”
“After his string of recent setbacks at the box office, I’m glad that Johnny Depp seems to have rediscovered his comic touch with this laughable motion,” Heard’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, told E! News at the time. “It is just another lame attempt by Mr. Depp and his team to not pay my client the money she is owed. We look forward to prevailing in court—and to getting sick children and women in need the money that Mr. Depp is denying them.”
“Amber appears to be under the impression that if she says something, it must be true,” Depp’s lawyer, Laura Wasser, stated in a Jan. 3 follow-up filing in support of the sanctions request. As far as they’re concerned, they’re wondering why, if Heard wants to be divorced so much, she doesn’t just sign the papers.
Surprise, Heard doesn’t want to pay a fee for trying to get the divorce settled to her liking.
“Johnny and his counsel seem to wish to prolong this proceeding as a means of punishing me,” she countered in a Jan. 6 filing.
“I am now told that Johnny is taking outrageous steps of seeking legal fees from me because I have asked the court to enforce the settlement agreement that we reached four months ago,” Heard stated. “I am told that Johnny somehow claims I am the one who is delaying settlement rather than the other way around. These claims are contemptible and shocking.”
She added, “Johnny has delayed the resolutions of this matter. I want my life back. I want to be divorced from Johnny now.”
Heard, meanwhile, is at least moving on with her life in the public eye, attending both the IT Girls of W Magazine luncheon and the Art of Elysium 10th Annual “Heaven” Gala last Saturday and the WME Golden Globes after-party on Sunday. Depp has gone back to work, shooting the true crime drama LAbyrinth, but you don’t see much of him casually (or formally) out and about—unless it’s music related. He’s been keeping a low profile, but he showed up at L.A.’s El Rey Theater on Nov. 3 to be honored with the Rhonda’s Kiss Healing and Hope Award for his efforts in the fight against cancer.
A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 13 on both her request to get a judge to make Depp comply with the settlement and Depp’s request for money. All could be over very soon, or…not.