Bethenny Frankel painted a dark picture in court on Wednesday of what it was like to live with her ex, Jason Hoppy, after their split.
During the couple’s bitter custody battle over their 4-year-old daughter Bryn, Frankel called living with Hoppy post-split “brutal, horrendous, excruciating he would not let me be alone with Bryn in the apartment.”
She added that her ex would “stare at me with a menacing face.” And if she was bathing Bryn, he would stand in the room with his arms crossed, and if she was in bed with Bryn, he would also climb into bed, she says.
Frankel, 43, said she finally “cracked” and got a temporary apartment in Tribeca. “It feels like living in a hotel,” she said.
She also stopped picking up and dropping off Bryn with Hoppy. “Now I ask [my assistant] Leslie to do the exchange, because Jason will make faces at me and say [to Bryn], ‘I’m sorry you have to go with Mommy.’ I don’t think it’s good for Bryn to be around that kind of stress and anxiety.”
Frankel also claimed Hoppy wrongly accused her of withholding medicine from Bryn, taking sleeping medications while caring for the girl and endangering her by taking her to work events – like a QVC appearance, which the star said lasted “approximately seven minutes.”
Beyond those experiences, Frankel claims Hoppy even mistreated her dog.
“I found out that Jason locked Cookie in the storage unit in our apartment with her dog bed and bowl,” she said.
That same night, while Frankel was out, Hoppy put the dog in a bag, hailed a cab, dropped the pup off at a dog hotel in New York City and “wouldn’t tell me or my assistant where she was until after midnight,” Frankel added.
For Hoppy’s part, his lawyer, Bernard Clair, has told the judge in court, “Bethenny Frankel’s priority is Bethenny Frankel. In pursuit of career success, she has used the child as a prop.”
Clair also charges that Frankel is trying to “relegate the father of her child to a walking sperm bank.”
‘Custody Cases Are Awful’
While the tone of Frankel and Hoppy’s case may seem particularly brutal, celebrity divorce attorney Nancy Chemtob tells PEOPLE that it’s not out of the ordinary – which is why so many stars settle their cases out of court.
“These people are celebrities, and this is a case that everyone’s interested in, but it’s really the same as all of the other custody cases,” Chemtob says. “It’s just really ugly. Custody cases are awful.”
Chemtob adds that the accusation that Hoppy may be trying to sway Bryn’s opinion of Frankel is a particularly thorny one. And it could be a critical piece in the case.
“When a child comes home and says, ‘Oh, Daddy said blah blah blah,’ that’s brainwashing or alienation,” Chemtob says. “That’s one of the factors to consider in a custody case. It’s a very big factor the question is which parent is going to foster the better relationship between the child and the other parent. You have to dig deep in a custody case.”
Chemtob also suggests that the case could drag on for months. “Custody cases look at the prior parenting, the future parenting and the future plans,” she says. “Travel, schedules, nannies, who’s really raising the child. Is this child an accessory or someone who really does get the love and devotion of a parent?”
On the plus side, she adds, Bryn is hopefully young enough not to be scarred by the process.
“Hopefully the case will be over before she’s 5, 6 or 7,” Chemtob says. “The issues change as the child gets older with schooling. I tell every client the best time to get divorced is when your child’s young enough not to remember. The courts really protect the child. I’m sure there’s a lawyer for the child, and she’s not going to go to court, and she’s going to be protected from the process.”
Court will resume on June 11 in what will likely prove to be a lengthy battle over Bryn.
• With reporting by JANINE RAYFORD RUBENSTEIN