Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's Divorce Explodes: Everything You Need to Know

How Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's split got so contentious so fast and where things stand as Depp's long-delayed defamation trial against Heard begins

Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty

The events surrounding Amber Heard's 2016 divorce from Johnny Depp escalated from complicated to startling in just a few days. What started as a typical divorce filing turned into shocking headlines when Heard alleged in court papers that she was abused by her husband throughout their 15-month marriage. In the years since, the pair have gone through a highly-publicized libel trial, launched a number of lawsuits against each other and now are entering into a second trial: this time, a defamation trial launched by Depp against his ex-wife.

Here's everything you need to know about this serious turn of events:


May 25: News of the divorce filing breaks

On May 23, 2016 Heard files for divorce from Depp citing irreconcilable differences. In the divorce petition, Heard, then 30, asks for spousal support from Depp, then 52.

Hours after Heard's filing (but before the world learns of it), Depp attends the Los Angeles premiere of his film, Alice Through the Looking Glass. "I never would've guessed he was going through a divorce, or anything like that," a source at the premiere told PEOPLE.

Depp, one of Hollywood's highest-paid actors, asked the judge to deny Heard's demand for spousal support via a response filed May 25 by his attorney, Laura Wasser. News also emerges that Depp's mother, Betty Sue Palmer, died on May 20.

May 26: Sources close to the couple speak out, details emerge about their rocky relationship

A source close to Heard tells PEOPLE the actress "did what she had to do to take care of herself" after months of strife. Meanwhile Depp addresses the split via his rep.

"Given the brevity of this marriage and the most recent and tragic loss of his mother, Johnny will not respond to any of the salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies about his personal life," his rep told PEOPLE in a statement. "Hopefully the dissolution of this short marriage will be resolved quickly."

May 27: Heard alleges Depp abused her and goes to court to get a restraining order

Heard unleashes a bombshell: She filed for, and is granted, a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Depp.

In her court filing, she alleged that Depp was verbally and physically abusive toward her throughout their four-year relationship and that he has a problem with substance abuse. She stated that the latest incident was on May 21, when she says Depp argued with her and hit her in the eye with a cell phone. She submitted as evidence photos of her apparently bruised face and damaged property from their apartment.

"Johnny has a long-held and widely-acknowledged public and private history of drug and alcohol abuse," she said in her declaration. "He has a short fuse. He is often paranoid and his temper is extremely scary for me as it has proven many times to be physically dangerous and/or life-threatening to me."

In court, Heard appeared to have a visible bruise on her right eye. A judge granted her a temporary restraining order requiring Depp to stay 100 yards from her and gave her sole use of their downtown L.A. apartment, but declined to order any temporary spousal support for her or require Depp to stay away from her dog, Pistol.

Depp responds in court papers

Depp's divorce attorney Wasser said Heard's domestic abuse claims are financially motivated.

"Amber is attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse," the lawyer said in response to Heard's claim in the court documents. "Her current application for a temporary restraining order along with her financial requests appears to be in response to the negative media attention she received earlier this week after filing for divorce. Yet Johnny cannot protect himself or Amber from media scrutiny, and Amber's anger certainly cannot drive this dissolution proceeding."

Police say they saw no evidence of a crime

An LAPD spokesman contacted by PEOPLE said officers investigated the May 21 incident after a 911 call and saw "no evidence of any crime." Heard declined to file a report, and Depp had already left the apartment, according to police.

A source close to Heard told PEOPLE she was too shaken to file a report at the time. The source also alleged that Depp knew about Heard's plans to file for the restraining order and offered her money not to do so.

Depp continues band tour, makes a charity appearance in Portugal.

The day Heard goes in court in L.A., Depp is in Portugal playing and making a charity appearance with his band Hollywood Vampires.

Hours before their Rock in Rio festival performance in Lisbon, Portugal, on Friday, Depp and his bandmates Alice Cooper, Robert Deleo and Bruce Wikin are photographed fitting and adjusting hearing aids to support the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

A concertgoer tells PEOPLE Depp appeared to be "fine" during the band's performance. "Johnny was absolutely fine. He played a really good gig," Wendy Holland, who was at the show, tells PEOPLE. "It was like the events of the week hadn't played a part at all."

Depp's daughter Lily-Rose defends him on social media

The actor's then-17-year-old child took to Instagram on May 29 to speak out about the domestic abuse allegations against her father. "My dad is the sweetest, most loving person I know, he's been nothing but a wonderful father to my little brother and I, and everyone who knows him would say the same," Lily-Rose captioned a throwback photo of the father-daughter pair.

Lily-Rose's mother and Depp's longtime partner of 14 years Vanessa Paradis reportedly wrote a handwritten letter to defend her ex, calling him a "sensitive, loving and loved person." Paradis and Depp also share 14-year-old son Jack.

Heard's lawyer explains why she didn't tell police about her alleged abuse

In a statement, Heard's lawyers said the actress decided not to 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."

"As the result of Amber's decision to decline giving an initial statement to the LAPD, her silence has been used against her by Johnny's team," Heard's attorney Samantha F. Spector and her co-counsel Joseph P. Koenig said in the statement. "Amber did not provide a statement to the LAPD in an attempt to protect her privacy and Johnny's career."

"From the beginning it has been Amber's desire to keep this matter as private as possible, even though LAPD officers responded to a 911 call made by a third-party. The LAPD officers viewed not only the disarray that Johnny had caused in the apartment but also the physical injuries to Amber's face," reads the statement. "We filed the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage at the very end of the day on Monday May 23 and we did not serve Johnny with the Petition at the premiere of Alice Through the Looking Glass that evening. We sent a letter to Johnny's counsel team the next morning making it clear we wanted to keep this matter out of the media. We then held off requesting a domestic violence restraining order as we knew that Johnny was out of the country."

Spector and Keonig went on to say that Amber's restraining order was an attempt to "set the record straight as the true facts."

"With her statement Amber hopes to give the LAPD the opportunity to conduct an accurate and complete investigation into the events of that evening and before. If that occurs, and the truth is revealed, there is no doubt that Amber's claims will be substantiated beyond any doubt, and hopefully Johnny will get the help that he so desperately needs," they wrote.

A LAPD spokesman previously told PEOPLE there was "no evidence of any crime" found when officers responded to the May 21-scene. Officials reiterated that statement when contacted by PEOPLE to respond to Spector and Keonig's statement on Tuesday.


Depp and Heard finalize their divorce

After reaching a $7 million settlement out of court in August 2016 — which Heard donated to the ACLU — the former pair finalized their divorce in January 2017.

"It is a great day. All Amber wanted was a divorce and now she has it. In the words of Gerald Ford, 'Our long national nightmare is over,' " Heard's attorney Pierce O'Donnell told PEOPLE at the time.

The judge denied Depp's request to impose a $100,000 sanction on Heard for allegedly delaying the proceeding. Depp was ordered to pay $500,000 towards Heard's legal fees, according to court papers.


Depp files a lawsuit

Depp files a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in March 2019, seeking damages for her 2018 Washington Post op-ed, in which she wrote about surviving domestic violence, although she never mentioned Depp specifically.

The lawsuit was ultimately delayed several times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Depp loses his U.K. libel lawsuit

In November 2020, Depp lost his highly publicized U.K. libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun, which he launched after they referred to him as a "wife-beater." The court upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true" and Heard testified to back up the claims. Depp attempted to overturn the decision, but was overruled in March 2021.


The pair return to court

Depp's long-delayed defamation trial against Heard began on Monday, April 11 in Fairfax, Virginia. For those looking to keep up with the proceedings from home, it's available to stream online or watch live television on Court TV.

In addition to Heard and Depp, several other celebrities are expected to testify virtually in the trial. On Heard's end, James Franco, Ellen Barkin, and Elon Musk will testify, according to Deadline. Paul Bettany will testify virtually for Depp.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

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