By Ellen Crofts, Trainee Solicitor

US court documents have confirmed that film star Johnny Depp, renowned for his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, and his actress wife Amber Heard are to divorce.

The press frenzy over the A-lister split has been intensified by reports that Depp –  who has an estimated net worth of $400 million and owns an island in the Bahamas – and Heard did not enter into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement prior to getting married 15 months ago.

A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is an Agreement entered into between a couple prior to their marriage or civil partnership, with a view to regulating the treatment and division of certain assets in the event of any subsequent separation or divorce.

Under Scots law, assets already owned by the parties prior to marriage, would normally be excluded from the matrimonial pot to be divided on separation, provided that these assets remain in the same form. The kind of scenario Johnny Depp is facing would therefore not happen if he divorced in Scotland, as most of his wealth was presumably built up before he got married. If he, however, sold some of those assets and new assets were acquired in their place, then those would become part of the pot to be divided. One of the primary purposes of Pre-Nuptial Agreements is to provide protection in respect of such claims and to ring fence pre-marital assets so that they are specifically excluded from the pot to be divided on separation, regardless of whether they change form. They can also make specific provision for the level of financial provision to be received by a spouse if the marriage comes to an end, thus avoiding argument later.

In Scotland, Pre-Nuptial Agreements are well recognised as legally binding agreements and their origins can be traced back in Scotland to the 13th Century. A Pre-Nuptial Agreement can therefore be an incredibly useful tool for protecting assets from claims on separation or divorce.

Despite their image, Pre-Nuptial Agreements are not just for the rich and famous, and you certainly do not need to own an island in the Bahamas for such an Agreement to be advisable. A Pre-Nuptial Agreement can form an important part of an overall package of asset protection measures, whilst also making the financial outcome on separation much more predictable.

If you would like more information on prenuptial agreements or any other services we provide, please contact a member of the family law team on 0131 228 8111 or at