Abuse Allegations and What's Next in Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's Divorce: All Your Questions Answered
In a new statement on Tuesday, Heard’s lawyers said she is “a victim of domestic violence” who decided not report her alleged abuse to police who responded to a 911 call on May 21 in order to “protect her privacy and Johnny’s career.”
In their statement, Heard’s attorney Samantha F. Spector and co-counsel Joseph P. Koenig added, “Johnny’s team has forced Amber to give a statement to the LAPD to set the record straight as to the true facts.”
Depp’s divorce attorney Laura Wasser contended in court documents that Heard is “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”
Heard, 30, was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp on May 27, after alleging in court papers that the 52-year-old actor physically and verbally abused her throughout their four-year relationship.
The allegations came four days after Heard filed a divorce petition on May 23 citing irreconcilable differences and requesting spousal support from Depp. Here, legal experts weigh in on the latest questions surrounding the evolving case.
How Do the Abuse Claims Affect Divorce Proceedings?
Experts say that although the domestic violence allegations may not result in a court awarding Heard a higher sum in divorce proceedings, they do give her an advantage in negotiations.
“It won’t affect the money. It’s not like [Heard] gets more [spousal] support because of a domestic violence claim,” Los Angeles-based attorney Ambrosio Rodriguez tells PEOPLE. “But what she does have, from a strategy point, what she has over him now is something to make him settle quick, as opposed to dragging it out.”
Family law attorney Stephanie Blum echos Rodriguez’s statements, telling PEOPLE that the allegations allowed Heard to get a court hearing sooner that she would have otherwise.
“So, if [Heard] is looking for [Depp] to pay her spousal support or pay her legal fees, making these allegations too would allow her to have those requests decided on by the court within weeks,” she says. On May 27, a judge denied Heard’s request for temporary spousal support.
What About Heard Not Reporting the Alleged Abuse to Police Right Away?
In court documents, Heard claims Depp pulled her hair and hit her with a cell phone on May 21.
A source close to the actress previously told PEOPLE that responding officers encouraged Heard to make a statement about the alleged incident, but Heard declined because she was too shaken up.
Although the source told PEOPLE that officers saw Heard’s wounds and trashed house the night of the incident, an LAPD spokesperson told PEOPLE that responding officers found no evidence of a crime.
On Tuesday, Heard’s attorney Spector and co-counsel Koenig issued a statement elaborating on their client’s reasoning and saying her “silence has been used against her by Johnny’s team.”
“Amber did not provide a statement to the LAPD in an attempt to protect her privacy and Johnny’s career,” Spector and Koenig said. “Johnny’s team has forced Amber to give a statement to the LAPD to set the record straight as to the true facts, as she cannot continue to leave herself open to the vicious false and malicious allegations that have infected the media.”
“In reality, Amber acted no differently than many victims of domestic violence, who think first of the harm that might come to the abuser, rather than the abuse they have already suffered,” the lawyers’ statement continued.
Rodriguez tells PEOPLE that only about 15 percent of domestic violence victims report the abuse.
“It is very common for domestic violence victims to delay reporting their abuse,” he says. “As long as she can explain why she delayed in reporting, it should not hurt the case.”
Could Depp Face Criminal Charges, and if So, What Are the Possible Repercussions?
“It is rare for the D.A. to file criminal charges in a domestic violence case when the police do not arrest the alleged perpetrator,” says Blum.
The chances of charges being filed are “slim,” adds Rodriguez, “in light of the fact that police didn’t find any evidence.”
If Depp were to be charged with a felony and convicted, “the minimum punishment would be three years of felony probation, a 52-week anger management class and fees and fines of over $2,000,” says Rodriguez.
“There would also be a lifetime ban on owning a firearm and he would lose all the rights that come from being a felon. There would also be a criminal protective order in place that would make it a crime for him to contact her in any way.”
How Might Depp’s Celebrity Affect the Case?
“Everything is altered because he is one of the most famous movie stars in the world,” says Rodriguez. “I expect LAPD and the D.A.’s office to be extra careful before moving forward.”
What Does Depp’s Initial Response Mean?
Depp’s lawyer, Laura Wasser, said in court documents that Heard made the accusations “to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”
“His court filings state he is out of the country and had not ‘heard’ the ‘specific’ allegations,” celebrity divorce lawyer Jonathan Wolfe tells PEOPLE, referring to Depp’s months-long tour with his band Hollywood Vampires.
“That is hard to imagine.”
What Happens Next?
Experts say the divorce proceedings could proceed quickly – or become a drawn-out battle.
Most likely, “[Depp] and his team will want to resolve this quickly,” Wolfe says.
“That said, since she has already gone public [with abuse claims], she may already have used much of her leverage, harmed his reputation [Depp] may now be more determined than ever to defend himself against these allegations.”
However, Wolfe adds, there is hope that the restraining order issue could be resolved without a court fight.
“The final restraining order hearing is scheduled for June 17th,” he says. “Since [Depp] is willing to agree to the restraints, don’t be surprised if this issue is settled by the parties before the hearing.”
• Reporting by CAITLIN KEATING and KARA WARNER