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Amber Heard is entitled to a divorce settlement... and it's up to her how she spends Johnny Depp's millions

By Georgina Hamblin

Published 20/08/2016

Love split: Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have recently been through a much-publicised and bitter divorce
Love split: Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have recently been through a much-publicised and bitter divorce

After a short, but closely scrutinised, divorce, Amber Heard and Johnny Depp announced their settlement this week, just three months after their well-publicised split. Unconfirmed reports claim that Heard is to receive a $7m (£5.3m) payout after the couple's 18-month marriage.

While all celebrity divorces inevitably attract column inches around the world, the couple's fame - and Heard's (now withdrawn) allegations of domestic abuse - has resulted in a frenzy of mass and social media attention.

At the heart of this, as is so often the case, are accusations that she, as the alleged victim, lied about the harm that she claims to have suffered at Depp's hands, in this case, better to line her pockets upon divorce.

While we will never know what happened between them, as all allegations have been dropped as part of the settlement, it is striking that once again the public has attacked the alleged victim.

This is so often the case - particularly with women. It is a centuries-old social phenomenon that repeatedly rears its ugly head in the case of rape and other such serious crimes.

My hope is that this ongoing trend is a result of our commitment to the "innocent until proven guilty" presumption. Certainly the reverse assumption would be far, far worse.

It is the venom with which society can now attack "victims" through social media forms which really does add serious insult to injury.

On this particular occasion, it would seem that the force with which this intense global scrutiny has been felt by Heard has led (through online attack and further victimisation) to the most unusual of divorce outcomes.

Having been labelled a "gold-digger", "liar" and "cheat", who "made up" her injuries to get more money from Depp, Heard has sought to prove everyone wrong and given all of her $7m settlement away to charity.

What greater gesture of generosity could there be? Or better decimation of the idea of her greed? But did this put a stop to her "gold-digger" title? Of course not.

The reports have, instead, fuelled the public's speculations and suspicion of her, rather than silenced them. Now many doubt that she truly does intend to give the money away. Worse, others claim that any donations she makes will in some way be tarnished and would burden the charity with "dirty money".

It seems whatever she does, she can't win. Give the money away and she is a cheat; cop out and keep it and she is greedy.

This dichotomy, although not immediately recognisable to most, echoes that experienced by many divorcees.

Each recognise that they have a valid financial claim to make against their former spouses. But make it with the full force to which they are entitled and they may feel, or be made to feel, guilty and greedy.

Refuse the settlement and they will likely feel, or be seen to be (particularly in years to come when life has moved on), cheated and hard done by.

Heard, like any other divorcee, is, therefore, entitled to make her financial claims and to do whatever she wishes with the proceeds. If she feels a greater personal benefit in donating some, or all, of her settlement to good causes then that is a matter for her and it is refreshing to see such generosity.

She may feel that while she needed to pursue the divorce and her financial claims as a matter of principle, the money is better spent elsewhere. She may also feel that $7m is a price that she is prepared to pay to end these proceedings and put the stress of the whole matter behind her.

After all, nothing is more valuable than peace of mind. Alternatively, she may simply feel that the charitable causes that she has chosen are more worthy ones than her own back pocket.

Yet, even this somewhat misses the point. The events leading up to the settlement, regardless of what happened, do not make her any more, or less, deserving of the money. She has an absolute entitlement to the sum, otherwise Depp would not be agreeing to pay it.

Heard is clearly in a different financial situation to most "ordinary" women, but that does not change her entitlement to a fair divorce settlement.

Given her own career prospects, I'm sure that she is making a well-measured decision. I am also sure that, having set the precedent, she will not be the last of the rich and famous to adopt this noble route.

Whether others can afford to be so generous and follow her example, however, is quite another matter.

Georgina Hamblin is a director at the family law firm Vardags

Belfast Telegraph

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