Though they never tied the knot, the couple seemed to be one of Hollywood’s most stable pairs. But on Thursday night, fans were shocked when the American Idol alum announced she had separated from the retired wrestler and received a protective order against the father of her 8-year-old son David Daniel Otunga, Jr. Otunga’s attorney told PEOPLE his client plans to fight for primary custody.
According to Otunga, 37, it was actually Hudson, 36, who first set her sights on him. “She first noticed me on [I Love New York 2], he told Wendy Williams in 2012, referencing the VH1 reality competition show. “I started doing a lot of interviews after the show wrapped and made friends with a couple of people. Next thing you know, [a friend of mine] says ‘Hey, you should meet my friend Jennifer.'”
Less than a year after their first date, Otunga popped the question with a Neil Lane sparkler on the Oscar winner’s 27th birthday.
Just one month later, tragedy struck when Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew were killed by her former brother-in-law William Balfour (he was convicted of the murders and is serving three consecutive life sentences in prison).
“I went from being an aunt, having a mom and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom and raising my own child,” she told Glamour in 2015 about the difficult time. “I tell [my son] David all the time, ‘You saved my life.’ “
She also told Ebony in 2012 Otunga — a Harvard-trained attorney — saved her life by keeping her out of Chicago the day they were killed. “That’s one of the things that saved my life, because I could have been home with my mom then. [David] wanted me to come out to Florida with him instead of going to Chicago. I flew out to see him. That’s why I’m still here. I’ve never said that before, and I can’t believe I just said that now.”
Almost one year after their engagement, Hudson gave birth to their son. Throughout her pregnancy, the singer refused to confirm she was expecting, but released a statement calling David Jr. “beautiful and perfect” once he arrived.
After wedding plans understandably stalled after the loss of Hudson’s family, Otunga told PEOPLE in 2012 they were “very excited” for their big day.
“That was something that was hanging over our heads for so long, and now we feel like we can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” he said a month after Balfour was convicted. “Everything is good now. I’m blessed to have such a wonderful woman in my life who cares for our child so lovingly. It’s made me love her just that much more.”
However, a wedding never materialized for the couple, and The Voice coach spent the last five years explaining why she hadn’t gotten married yet.
In 2014 she told Wendy Williams she and Otunga were taking “baby” steps. “We will get married one day, but again, my thing is once I get married, I don’t believe in divorce. So when I get married, it’s for good. We want to be completely sure we’re together, we’re happy.”
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She also revealed she gifted Otunga a ring for his birthday because “he needed everybody to know that he was taken as well.”
Last summer she told Essence “it’s about timing” and insisted she was in “no rush” despite feeling a bit of an itch after attending her pal Ciara’s wedding to NFL quarterback Russell Wilson that summer.
“After being at Ciara’s wedding, I’m like ‘Okay,’ ” she told the publication. “I don’t know, it inspired something. I just loved her dress. It was so beautiful. So that made me say ‘Okay, all my friends and peers are married now.’ You know what I mean?”
Finally, just seven months ago Hudson told Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show she was in no rush to wed because “he ain’t going nowhere.” After the talk-show host asked if Hudson if they were “happy and in love,” the star simply nodded and said “Yes.”