Amber Heard’s $50,000 Monthly Alimony Request: Accurate or Overreach?

The divorce and continued dislike between actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp have become one of the most significant sources of celebrity drama in recent weeks. While the couple has officially been divorced since 2016, they’ve wound up in the news again. Depp is suing Heard for defamation in an open courtroom.

The reemergence of the case has caused many people to reexamine the original divorce documents, including details such as Heard’s supposedly outrageous request for $50,000 per month in alimony. As the couple continues to hash out their relationship problems in court, you can learn from their mistakes.

Keep reading to learn why Heard’s alimony request might not have been so outrageous, how alimony is handled in California, and how to fight for or against a spousal support order in your divorce.

Why Heard Requested $50,000 Per Month

When Heard initially filed for divorce from Depp, she filed in a public court. As such, all of the legal documents about the couple’s split became matters of public record. That means that all of the details about her request for spoual support and the reasoning behind her chosen number are available for anyone to read.

In these documents, Heard requested a monthly alimony payment of $50,000 from Depp. To support this number, she included documentation regarding her current expenses. At the time, Heard claimed that she had monthly expenses of $43,700, including $10,000 each for rent, entertainment, and travel, and “miscellaneous” expenses like public relations and her agent.

Heard also provided documents detailing her current income and expenses. At the time of filing, she noted that she typically had a monthly income of $10,000, significantly lower than her expenses. Furthermore, she clarified that her income fluctuates from month to month according to the work she receives as an actress.

Depp immediately filed paperwork to block her request. The fine details of their negotiation aren’t available to the public. What is known is that eventually, Heard and Depp reached a settlement regarding their split. Instead of alimony, Heard accepted a one-time asset division and support payment of $7 million from the actor. She proceeded to donate the entire amount to charity.

How Alimony Is Calculated in California

In California, spousal support is not a right. It’s a possible benefit that courts may award lower-earning spouses after they split from their higher-earning spouses. There is no hard-and-fast rule about how courts must award spousal support, so when spousal support requests go to court, the total amount is up to the judge’s discretion.

There are a few rules of thumb regarding alimony awards, though. The most common calculations vary depending on the type of alimony being awarded. The first and simplest form is temporary support, a short-term set of payments made to the lower-income spouse to support them until the divorce is finalized. In this case, the court will typically use California’s child support calculations, with small adjustments made if the couple doesn’t share children.

The other two forms of spouse support are rehabilitative and permanent. Rehabilitative support is an order that lasts for several years but is not permanent. It’s intended to help support the lower-income spouse until they can re-enter the workforce or otherwise support themselves. Meanwhile, permanent support is an indefinite order that requires the higher-income spouse to continue paying alimony until their ex-partner remarries, or one of the two dies or has a material change in circumstances.

Both rehabilitative and permanent alimony are calculated similarly. The judge will take factors into account such as:

  • The relative income levels of both spouses
  • Each spouse’s cost of living
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of both parties
  • Each spouse’s education and the shared contributions to that education
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse

With these issues in mind, the judge will decide whether spousal support must be paid and, if so, how much. Awards are rarely more than 30-40% of the higher-earning partner’s monthly income. Permanent alimony is frequently lower since the order has no end date.

Under these general guidelines, Heard’s request for $50,000 a month is not as overwhelming as it may seem. Depp certainly earns significantly more than that each month, while Heard does not. Furthermore, Heard maintains that Depp was abusive to her during their marriage, leading to higher rehabilitative payments. The fact that Depp agreed to give her $7 million outright demonstrates his concern that she might successfully argue for more in court.  

Arguing For and Against Alimony

Depending on your individual situation, you may want to either argue in favor of receiving alimony or against paying it. This can significantly alter how you present your situation in court.

If you believe you need spousal support, you should make sure you mention any relevant details like whether:

  • Your spouse earns significantly more than you
  • You spent years supporting your spouse while they pursued a career or education
  • You stayed home to support your children while they worked
  • Your cost of living is high in part due to your spouse’s influence
  • You have been married for a decade or more

These points make it clear to the court that you both need and deserve alimony from your partner.

On the other hand, if your spouse is requesting alimony and you don’t believe they need the requested amount, you can argue points such as:

  • Their income and resources are actually not that different from your own
  • Your marriage was too short for alimony to be relevant
  • Your spouse did not make their career choices due to your influence
  • Your spouse can find a new job without needing support

The judge will consider each of these points and potentially help you reduce or avoid paying spousal support entirely.

Manage Your Divorce Finances with Effective Legal Representation

Heard’s original $50,000 alimony claim may not have been as excessive as it appeared. Whether you’re interested in pursuing alimony or you’re concerned that you will have to pay egregious amounts each month, you can take a page from her book and work with expert divorce lawyers who specialize in high net worth splits. Get in touch with the qualified team at Kaspar & Lugary, LLP, to discuss your situation and learn more about what’s reasonable in your breakup and how to finalize your divorce with the best possible financial outcome.

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Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a family law firm with offices in Corte Madera, CA; Napa, CA; Walnut Creek, CA; and San Diego, CA. We also represent clients in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pismo Beach, Contra Costa County, and Los Angeles.