Is Johnny Depp’s Sale of Venice Mansion During Divorce Legal?

You may have already heard the big news, that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are getting a divorce after only 15 months of marriage. If not, click here to read our previous article on the subject. The latest news out of this real-life Hollywood saga is that Johnny has decided to sell his palace in Venice, listed for almost $11 million.

This four-story mansion overlooking the Grand Canal has 7 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, and a private dock. Surely this gem, which Johnny purchased in 2011, prior to his marriage with Heard, will be difficult to let go of. However, the Italian media has reported that the decision to sell this property and the divorce are connected.

As divorce attorneys, we understand that there may be any number of reasons why someone would want to sell their home or other property once they filed for divorce. However, take caution once you or your spouse has filed for divorce. Once one spouse files the petition for divorce and the moment the other spouse is served with the summons and petition for divorce, you each become bound by automatic temporary restraining orders (or “ATROs”), which essentially govern how property should be dealt with from the time of filing for divorce through final judgment (among other things.)

As it relates to the sale of a home or other property, the ATROs as included in the Summons state in part: “starting immediately, you and your spouse or domestic partner are restrained from (…) Transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, whether community, quasi-community, or separate, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life”

This means that, during a divorce, you simply cannot decide that you want to sell something willy-nilly, like an $11 million estate for example. As you can see above, the ATROs cover both community and separate property. So you must still pay mind to this even if you believe a piece of property is entirely your own separate property. Per the ATROs, if you want to sell a piece of property, you have to either have written agreement (or a stipulation) with your spouse, or if your spouse does not agree, you have to file a motion with the court for an order allowing you to sell the property. And, before a divorce is finalized, a court has limited ability to make such an order.

Although we don’t know all of the details behind Johnny’s decision to sell, it has been reported that he and Amber are making attempts to settle their case. Therefore, it is likely that they came to an agreement by which Johnny was allowed to sell this property prior to their divorce being finalized. Because Johnny purchased this property prior to marrying Amber, and because their marriage was fairly short, it is doubtful that Amber would have had a significant, if any, interest in this property anyways.

If you are preparing for or in the midst of a divorce and wish to liquidate property before your divorce is finalized, it is important that you understand the law.  The attorneys at Bickford Blado & Botros are qualified to provide that advice and have years of experience handling such matters.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding selling assets during your divorce. Nancy J. Bickford is the only Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) in San Diego County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) with a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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