Since Amber Heard’s filing for divorce from Johnny Depp at the end of May Heard has charged the Pirates of the Caribbean star with a temporary restraining order. But is the order just one way for the actress to secure a solid financial footing for her future?
Is Amber Heard Just Seeking Spousal Support?
While Amber Heard,30, might have obtained a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Depp, 52, Depp’s attorneys aren’t buying it. In fact, Depp’s attorney feels Heard is “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse,” that the two actors and the court have no “financial information upon which to grant such relief” and that “as a successful actress with significant income of her own, there is no question Amber can support herself” until both Depp and Heard “have had a reasonable amount of time to assess their finances” with their attorneys and potentially negotiate a “mutually agreeable resolution.”
While the two did not sign a prenuptial agreement, Heard is seeking $50,000 a month in spousal support, an amount that is reportedly based on their “marital lifestyle.” Depp requested that amount be denied in his response papers to her divorce filing.
High Net-Worth Divorces
It’s not uncommon for us to hear about high net-worth divorces coming out of Hollywood. Defined by the Securities and Exchange Commission, a “High Net-Worth Divorce” is “One in which a natural person who has individual net worth, or joint worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million dollars at the time of purchase, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person; or a natural person with an income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 for those years and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year.”
For individuals who carry a significant net worth, such as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, protecting themselves in the case of divorce is essential in order to properly secure their assets. Statistically speaking, individuals across a wide spectrum can find themselves facing the reality of divorce, no matter their socioeconomic status, ethnicity or religion, but the more assets involved and the higher the net worth, the greater the stakes when it comes to separation of finances and property.
Since Depp has made a considerable amount of money – but Heard has as well in her own acting career. Additionally, the fact that the two were only married for 15 months will no doubt be considered when the judge reviews Heard’s request for spousal support.
Spousal Support Determinations
If you are getting divorced, and are seeking spousal support, or are expected to pay spousal support payments, there are some important things you’ll want to understand. A family law attorney will be able to walk you through the specifics of your case, but here we’ll provide you with a general overview of aspects of spousal support including: the awarding of spousal support, tax laws, and what can happen if spousal support payments are not made.
Defining Spousal Support
Spousal support (also known as alimony) is financial assistance that is only available to those who were legally married. It recognizes a partner’s contribution to the marriage and its goal is to help the recipient achieve financial independence. Rules regarding alimony vary state by state.
Calculating Spousal Support
When a court presides over a spousal support hearing, it weighs a number of factors including: the length of the marriage, the needs of each spouse, the standard of living that was created and maintained during the marriage, any assets, the age of the spouses, numerous other factors, and state specific laws. Your divorce attorney will build your case for spousal support based on your own specific circumstances.
Length of Spousal Support
The duration of spousal support payments is set by the court after it weighs the arguments that have been made. Typically, the length of payments lasts for half the length of a less than 10 years long marriage. For example: a marriage of six years means the spousal support payments will need to be paid for three years.
In longer marriages, a court might not set an a duration for the alimony payments. In that case, it is up to your divorce attorney to prove your side of the case and the duration. You should work with your divorce attorney to establish your side, regardless of if you are paying or receiving payments, and also determine the amount of time you seek. The court will then listen to both arguments, and using common law, decide upon the duration.
Permanent or Lifetime Spousal Support
“Permanent” or “Lifetime” spousal support means support will be paid to the recipient until the death of the one paying, or sometimes until the recipient remarries. While remarriage has been a reason for the end of spousal support payments, that is not always the case, and sometimes a court will rule that a remarriage does not mean the end of the support payments.
As women became a stronger component of the workforce, permanent support began to be rewarded less and less. And now courts rarely award permanent support. One appellate court stated:
“As recognized by our Supreme Court, the public policy of this state has progressed from one which entitled some women to lifelong alimony as a condition of the marital contract of support, to one that entitles either spouse to post-dissolution support for only so long as is necessary to become self-supporting.”
A court will usually require the higher earner, regardless of if they are husband or wife, to assist the lower earner with maintaining the standard of living, at least for a period of time.
“Standard of Living”
Heard is seeking $50,000 a month in spousal support, an amount that is reportedly based on their “marital lifestyle.” This “marital lifestyle” will be based on what is called a “standard of living,” which is often used as a sort of guidebook for how much money a spouse will receive.
Spousal support’s main purpose is to assist a supported spouse in maintaining a standard of living that was close to that which was attained during the marriage. But the goal is for the spouse receiving the payments to eventually become self-supporting to the greatest extent possible. A court will take the following into account:
- marketable skills of the supported spouse,
- job market for those skills,
- any time or expense the supported spouse will need to acquire education or training for employment or enhanced employability, and
- the extent to which periods of unemployment (due to domestic duties) during the marriage have impaired the supported spouse’s present or future earning capacity.
The court will also consider any other factors, including:
- extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the other spouse’s attainment of education, training, professional licensing or career advancement (this can also mean the extent to which the supported spouse provided and maintained home life while the other spouse was advancing his or her career)
- ability of the supporting spouse to pay support. A court will take into account earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living,
- needs of each party based on what the marital standard of living was,
- each spouse’s obligations and assets, including separate property,
- duration of the marriage,
- ability of a spouse who is also a custodial parent to engage in employment without interfering with the interests of dependent children,
- each spouse’s age and health,
- documented history of domestic violence by either spouse*,
- immediate and specific tax consequences to each spouse (often times tax agreements are figured out during the awarding of spousal support and child support agreements),
- balance of the hardships to each spouse, and
- the goal that the supported spouse will be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. This follows a general rule of thumb presumed to be one-half the length of a marriage (unless the marriage was longer than 10 years).
*California courts do not ordinarily consider conduct when making spousal support determinations. But often times, a court will not award support to a spouse that has a proven history of violence toward the other spouse.
While a history of violence might factor into Depp and Heard’s case, it will be up to a judge to determine if that is a factor in the two’s divorce case, or if, as Depp’s lawyer’s allege that Heard is just using the restraining order as a means to secure her future financial footing.
A Family Law Attorney
But when it comes to the actual legal process of a divorce, you’ll want to work with a skilled family law attorney There are a number of things that need to be considered during a divorce: child support, spousal support, marital property division, and other things. Working with a skilled attorney can help ensure you get a fair case. For advice on divorce, child custody determinations, setting up a co-parenting agreement, dividing marital property, and spousal support you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.
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