An inside look at who got the better side of the deal in Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's divorce case
After nearly three grueling months of negotiations, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard finally reached a settlement in their divorce – but as the dust begins to settle, which side is feeling like they got the better end of the deal?
In a joint statement to PEOPLE, the actors agreed, “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.” They added, “There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm” and, “Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future.” In addition, Heard has dismissed her domestic violence case against Depp, who will pay the actress $7 million in settlement money to end their 15-month marriage, TMZ reports.
“This is a settlement that both parties can be happily unhappy with – and those are usually the best settlements,” L.A. family law expert Steve Mindel, who is not associated with this case, tells PEOPLE.
For Heard, who has insisted from the beginning that "none of her actions are motivated by money" and said in the their joint statement that she is “donating financial proceeds from the divorce to a charity,” establishing her integrity is especially important. “Amber’s credibility is probably the most important thing to her because she knows she’s going to get a lot of money no matter what,” Mindel says. “At the end of the day she needs to make sure her credibility is intact and this statement adequately suffices to maintain her credibility.”
While both parties seem to agree to disagree in their statement, Mindel explains, “In some future situation, no one can say Heard was a liar in this case because there is now a public statement saying no one lied for financial gain.”
He adds, “It’s not saying all his or her statements were true, it’s just saying no one lied for a bad purpose.”
As for the money, the reported $7 million lump sum figure might seem low compared to Depp’s immense fortune. The actor reportedly earned $350 million for the first four Pirates of the Caribbean films alone, and typically in California both parties are entitled to half of the community earnings during the marriage. But Mindel explains how quickly that money can disappear, especially if Depp and Heard were big spenders during their short marriage.
“One of the big questions is how much they consumed during the marriage. For instance, let’s say Depp made $100 million during their marriage,” says Mindel. (Depp’s most lucrative yearly earning was $100 million in 2010, according to Forbes.)
“From that $100 million, he would pay somewhere around $25 million in fees to his accountants, lawyers, management etc. and then another $35 million or so in taxes. And then from that remaining $40 million, if they spent $25 million on themselves, then there would only be $15 million left between the two of them, or $7 million each.
“So even though the numbers are massive, they crush down very quickly because a lot of people have their hands in Depp’s pockets and half goes to taxes. It’s very similar to what happens to lottery winners, by the time the taxes come out, the payments aren’t as big as you’d think.”
WATCH: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Reach Settlement in Divorce
In fact, Mindel says that Heard’s domestic violence allegations probably “made Depp put more money on the table than he normally would have.” In addition, Mindel believes Depp gambled by offering a large lump sum. While the one-time payment gives Heard “a clean break” and limits her future exposure to Depp, it’s possible she could have earned more money long-term by negotiating for a piece of Depp’s back-end earnings from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
“At the end of the day, in 5 or 10 years, we’ll see how much that back-end is worth and we’ll see whether or not this was a good deal or a bad deal,” he explains.
As for the timing, Mindel says it’s no coincidence a settlement was made on the eve of Depp’s restraining order hearing Wednesday. “Going to trial was not going to help either party,” he says, having earlier predicted the case would be settled “right after Heard’s deposition” (which took place on Saturday) because Depp “doesn’t want to be deposed for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least of which is the deposition video or transcript could be leaked and he doesn’t want anybody to misinterpret what he says.”
Mindel also believes the leaked video allegedly showing a fight between Heard and Depp could have precipitated the settlement. “That video seems to be very damaging in that it appears he was consuming alcohol,” he says, reiterating the effect such evidence could have on a judge.
Ultimately, the lawyer says the fatigue factor cannot be underestimated. “At a certain point people get exhausted with the process,” he says. “The question is who’s in better condition to withstand the stress. And it’s ridiculous, unhealthy levels of stress.”