A Timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's Relationship, Abuse Allegations, and Defamation Trial

johnny depp amber heard abuse trial
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Trigger Warning: Descriptions of domestic violence.

Over the last few years, it seems like there’s just been a lot of “he-said, she-said” happening between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. It’s hard to keep track of what’s gone down and where things are at.

But the one thing that has been made abundantly clear is that the two had one very toxic and volatile relationship.

Currently, the pair are in the early days of what’s expected to be a five-week trial based on Depp’s defamation case against Heard. He claims her allegations of abuse ruined his career and that she was the primary abuser. She maintains she is the victim.

It’s all a very tangled web, so let’s try to make sense of it all.

March 2009: Johnny and Amber Meet

Depp and Heard meet on the set of The Rum Diary, which they are both cast in. At the time, they were both in relationships with other people and were not romantically linked to each other.

Late 2011-Early 2012: The Relationship Begins

It doesn’t seem to be known exactly when Depp and Heard officially started dating, but it was somewhere around the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.

2013: First Abuse

This is allegedly the first time Depp physically assaulted Heard (she did not speak out about the incident at the time, this came out later in court). She says he hit her for making fun of one of his tattoos.

He denies this ever happened, and has said, ”

Why would I take such great offense to someone making fun of a tattoo on my body? That allegation never made any sense to me.”

May 2014: Johnny and Amber Get Engaged

Paparazzi photos show Heard wearing a massive diamond ring on her left ring finger, indicating she and Depp are engaged.

2014-2015: The Abuse Continues

Although the allegations didn’t come out until much later, Heard says that Depp was “blackout” drunk and abused her on a private plane. He later admits to have taken two pills and drunk a glass of champagne before the flight, but does not admit to any abuse.

Meanwhile, Depp accuses Heard of abusing him as well (which came out in court on April 20, 2022). He claims she was angry at him for requesting a post-nuptial agreement and said he was trying to “trick her” into not getting anything if something were to happen to them.

He says the argument became more and more heated and she eventually threw a glass bottle of vodka at him, just barely missing his head. Then, she threw a second bottle at him that shattered and severed the top of one of his fingers. He went to the emergency room for treatment but lied about what happened in an effort to protect both of them. (For the record, Heard’s lawyers argue this wound was self-inflicted).

February 2015: Secret Wedding

The couple gets married in a secret ceremony.

May 2016: Divorce Papers

Depp and Heard file for divorce with Heard citing irreconcilable differences. In the divorce petition, Heard asks for spousal support.

May 2016: First Photos of Abuse

After filing for divorce, Heard shows up in court with a bruised face claiming Depp threw a cell phone at her. At the time, she said,

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.”

As a result, the judge issues a restraining order requiring Depp to stay away from Heard.

The abuse case is ultimately settled and the couple releases a statement,

Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”

Note: This incident was investigated by LA police, but they found no crime had been committed. Depp claims Heard was trying to secure more money in their divorce (which is likely why she publicly declared that she donated the $7M settlement after their divorce in 2017). In court on April 20, 2022, Depp said he wanted to fight her on these claims at the time (2016) because he was losing work as a result, but was advised by his lawyers not to.

January 2017: Divorce Finalized

The divorce is finalized. Heard gets a $7M settlement, which she pledges to donate to charities such as the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

As part of the divorce settlement, the pair sign a non-disparagement clause which states neither one of them can negatively speak about their relationship/divorce.

June 2018: Johnny’s Sues ‘The Sun’ For Defamation

Depp sues The Sun and its executive director over a 2018 article in which they call him a “wife-beater.” Two years later, Depp loses the trial with the court ruling calling the phrase “substantially true.”

December 2018: Amber’s Notorious Op-Ed

Heard writes an op-ed for the Washington Post where she talks about her experience as a public figure and victim of domestic abuse. While she does not specifically name Depp in the article, it’s fairly obvious who she is referring to in it. She writes,

Imagine a powerful man as a ship, like the Titanic. That ship is a huge enterprise. When it strikes an iceberg, there are a lot of people on board desperate to patch up holes — not because they believe in or even care about the ship, but because their own fates depend on the enterprise.”

March 2019: Beginning of the Defamation Suit

Depp files a defamation lawsuit against heard for $50M, saying she was the perpetrator of the abuse.

January 2020: Leaked Recording of Amber Confessing to Abuse

The Daily Mail publishes a recorded conversation between Heard and Depp from 2015 where they each admit to abuse. In part, the conversation goes:

Heard: “I’m sorry that I didn’t … hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you, it was not punching you. Babe, you’re not punched … I don’t know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you’re fine, I did not hurt you, I did not punch you, I was hitting you.”

Depp: “I left last night. Honestly, I swear to you because I just couldn’t take the idea of more physicality, more physical abuse on each other … Because had we continued it, it would have gotten f—ing bad. And baby, I told you this once. I’m scared to death we are a f—ing crime scene right now.”

Heard: “I can’t promise you I won’t get physical again. God, I f—ing sometimes get so mad I lose it.”

April 2022: The Defamation Trial Finally Begins

The defamation trial begins on April 11.

Depp takes the stand and shares his account of a number of events over the last several years. He maintains that Heard was abusive towards him, that she has been dishonest in her claims against him, and her dishonesty has cost him his career.

Heard is expected to take the stand to share her side of these stories next week. And there are still several other witnesses to come so this is only the beginning.


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Ashley Ziegler
Aside from being a writer, Ashley is a mom of two girls and a wife to a passionate public school administrator. When she does have free time (cue laughter from working moms everywhere) she loves going to hot yoga classes, watching anything on Netflix that isn't a cartoon, and weaving her way through every aisle of Target while listening to one of her favorite podcasts.