Heard, 30, who filed for divorce from the actor on May 21, had claimed in court filings that Depp, 53, had abused her throughout their relationship. But Depp’s lawyers alleged in a legal response that Heard “is attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”
What can the actress expect at her deposition? And what implications could it have on the rest of her divorce, including Depp’s upcoming restraining order hearing?
PEOPLE spoke with L.A. certified family law specialist Steve Mindel to find out what’s in store for Heard when she takes the stand Aug. 6.
What can Heard expect from her deposition?
The short answer is she can expect that Depp’s team is going to try to elicit every minute detail about the entire day or days during which the domestic violence allegedly occurred. Depp’s lawyers will later use that information to find contradictions in her story that they can then use to establish doubt about her credibility at the time of trial.
The key to deposition is not whether you win or lose, it’s about boxing the person in to a story. The case will be won or lost on the stand in trial, when you can expose those inconsistencies. And if you can string enough of those together, then the person could lose credibility in the eyes of the judge. And when Heard’s lawyers depose Depp, they’re going to do the same thing to him.
However, if Depp’s team discovers numerous contradictions during the deposition, it’s possible they could ask Heard’s team to enter mediation. During mediation, Depp’s team can present the inconsistencies to a mediator, and if the mediator agrees Heard’s testimony contains many contradictions, the mediator could recommend she settle.
What will Heard do to prepare?
Usually attorneys and their clients will prepare extensively, especially in a high-profile case like this where the confidential minutes could get leaked. They’re going to spend a lot of time preparing.
The longest a deposition can last is seven hours, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they work with her for two days just on deposition prep alone. They’ll practice for between five and 10 hours, during which they’ll run her through a mock deposition.
Her reputation is certainly at stake because she has repeatedly stated this isn’t about money and is instead about exposing domestic abuse. She doesn’t want to be found not credible because this is a huge story, and there’s a lot of risk taking on a high-profile person like Depp.
What does she need to prove to get a permanent restraining order?
If she can prove there was actual domestic violence and that she would have reasonable apprehension of harm from Depp, then she’s going to get a restraining order.
On the other hand, Depp’s team is going to try to show that her story has contradictions. They will also try to argue that Depp has not contacted her during the trial, and therefore is unlikely to start doing so in the future.
Even if the judge finds there was domestic violence, Depp’s team will still argue against the restraining order because Heard’s lawyers will need to show reasonable evidence Depp is a continued threat to her safety.
VIDEO: A Look Inside Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s Tumultuous 15-Month Marriage
What will happen if Depp is issued a permanent restraining order?
There are a lot of things that happen when you have a restraining order against you.
First of all, you get put in the CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System) system, a nationwide police database of domestic abuse offenders, so that’s automatically terrible.
Anyone could look up his profile on the database, which could affect his public image and in turn his financial situation. He would also not be allowed to carry a firearm.
Why has this taken so long to schedule?
Unfortunately all of the rescheduling is pretty normal, especially when you have people like Depp and Heard who are extremely busy. They also have high-profile lawyers who have busy schedules and it’s the summer, which is typically a busy time in the courts. It’s not easy coordinating five or six people’s very busy schedules.
I also think the judge is sending a big signal by continuing to move the trial date. I think he’s hoping it will give them time to get in a room together and figure this out because no one really benefits from going to trial.
The judge is kinda of telling everyone, ‘Look, there’s plenty of money here. Let’s get this settled and if there really was domestic violence, take it to the civil courts.’
Court documents show that both parties did participate in a six-hour voluntary settlement conference with a judge in hopes of resolving all matters. While no full resolution was reached, the documents note that some progress was made.
It’s in everybody’s best interest to get this settled before the restraining order hearing because somebody’s going to win or lose by that point. The court’s either going to take his side or hers.
Either way, no one really wins here. If she wins and the restraining order is put in place, he could lose his fan base, which could in turn affect his ability to pay her support or settlement. If she loses, she’ll be mad at the court for not believing her, and she could try to go after him financially as a last resort.