The fiery short-term marriage of actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard has been fodder for countless headlines and social media noise. The couple, who began dating in 2012 and married in 2015, had a fiery relationship. The 15-month marriage ended in divorce and included a restraining order filed and then withdrawn. They settled things with Depp giving her $7 million, which she vowed to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union. After issuing a joint statement that they parted on good terms, they went their separate ways.
That unraveled in 2016 when Heard appeared on the cover of People Magazine in a photo that showed bruises on her face. She then wrote an Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post in 2018 that characterized her as a victim of abuse and as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” While Depp was not named in the piece, he alleges that the Op-Ed and magazine cover incalculably damaged his reputation and career. Conversely, his team also argues that Heard did this to help her career.
The two are now litigating in Fairfax, Virginia, Civil Court. The trial is expected to last six weeks. Depp has already lost a libel lawsuit against a British newspaper that called him a “wife-beater,” which seemed like a preview for this case since it covers much the same legal ground.
Heard’s legal team wanted the trial to be held in California, where the laws are considered more favorable to Heard’s circumstances and free speech rights. Depp’s team successfully argued for the trial in Virginia because it is the site of two Washington Post offices and the paper’s printing presses. Their reasoning for wanting to prosecute in Virginia is that First Amendment protections are not as strong.
Does this behavior sound familiar?
This is not the first time a marriage broke apart with accusations similar to Heard’s, nor is it the first time that a spouse denies and fights back against the claims. Still, rarely has there been such a high-profile case. In this instance, Deep is seeking $50 million in damages for defaming his character. Heard is countersuing for $100 million.
Obviously, any abuse allegation must be taken seriously. We do not have a decision, but this high-profile case illustrates the positives and negatives of litigating a case involving a soon-to-be-divorced spouse or ex-spouse. Based on the coverage, it is likely neither will emerge unscathed. But the damage may be worth it if they get the right outcome.
Those in danger should call 911, and the next step is to contact an attorney who can often provide legal protection and advocacy addressing family law matters or other issues.