Inside RHOC Star Tamra Judge's Roller Coaster Relationship with Estranged Daughter Sidney Barney
How Real Housewives of Orange County star Tamra Judge's relationship with daughter Sidney Barney came to be so strained
Tamra Judge has has been working to rebuild her relationship with 18-year-old estranged daughter Sidney Barney over the past few years. And though Tamra, 49, has tried to keep much of their path to forgiveness away from The Real Housewives of Orange County cameras, the drama around her family situation exploded in August when Sidney put her mother on blast, claiming Tamra “was no mother to me.”
So how did things get so bad between them?
Much of their conflict appears to stem from Tamra’s experience with her ex-husband (and Sidney’s father) Simon Barney.
The couple, who were married for nearly 12 years, had a contentious relationship and were often seen fighting on camera over Simon’s frustration about the way Tamra parented, dressed and carried herself around her friends.
Nowhere was that clearer than in season 5. After criticizing Tamra’s little black dress (“It looks like something a 20-year-old would wear … I don’t know if it’s age appropriate. You’re a married woman. Dress like a married woman”), he chastised Tamra for spending too much time with then-BFF Vicki Gunvalson and not enough time with her kids.
She finally hit her breaking point, snapping over his attempt to control her while in a limousine en route to a party. “You’re a nasty, vile person,” she said. “You can go f— yourself. I want a divorce! F— you!”
Once inside the party, she broke down to Gunvalson. “He doesn’t like me,” she said. “I’m scared that he’s going to get mad at me. I’m scared all the time. His words hurt me. He gets this look on his face — he looks like hate. I don’t know anymore. I’ve never felt so much pain in my whole life. Nobody knows.”
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Things only got worse from there.
In January 2010, Simon, 52, filed for divorce, claiming in his filing that Tamra “has been verbally abusive and has committed acts of disloyalty and adultery.” (She denied all allegations). Later that year, he was arrested for domestic violence after allegedly throwing a retractable dog leash at his then-wife. (The charges were ultimately dropped.)
Their divorce was finalized in 2011, and they agreed to share equal custody of their three children: Spencer, now 17, Sophia, now 11, and Sidney. But even well after the tattoo of Simon’s name was surgically removed from her ring finger and Tamra married third husband Eddie Judge, she still found herself fighting with Simon.
In March 2014, he attempted to get full custody of their kids, releasing court documents that said she had been neglectful of them. “This has resulted in the children not getting prompt medical care, nutritional meals, hygienic care and deterioration in their school work and attendance,” the documents said. (Tamra has a 31-year-old son, Ryan Vieth, from a previous relationship).
“I am saddened by the false stories my ex-husband has released,” Tamra told PEOPLE at the time. “He has no foundation to his allegations and in my opinion will do anything to destroy me. Unfortunately, he is hurting our children and my family in the process. I love my children more than anything in this world. He should be ashamed of his action and realize this is not best for our children. For someone that wants to keep his children out of the public eye, it’s evident he would do anything, including exploiting his kids to get attention.”
Ultimately, Simon’s case would be denied — but Tamra would still relinquish custody of Sidney to Simon after their daughter opted to live with him full-time.
It would be years until they spoke again.
At the RHOC season 10 reunion in 2015, Tamra opened up about the pain for the first time. “Spencer lives with me full time, Sidney lives with her dad full time and it’s actually a heartbreaking situation because he doesn’t talk to his father and Sidney doesn’t talk to me,” Tamra said. “The only time they see each other is when they pass each other in the hallways at school. It’s not the way I want it, you know? I beg and ask that we can fix it, but it’s got to be from both sides.”
She tearfully recalled to Entertainment Tonight the moment Sidney told her she wanted to leave. “[Sidney] came in the kitchen and she sat down and she said, ‘I don’t want to live with you anymore. You’ve ruined my dad’s life,’ ” Tamra said. ‘And I said, ‘we need to work through these things. We can go to counseling.’ ”
Though they tried therapy, Tamra claimed Simon put a stop to it — and petitioned the court system didn’t help because “at 14, you’re an adult in their eyes.” Sidney spoke up for herself in August 2015 too, attending her parent’s court hearing to let the judge know she didn’t want to spend time with her mother. “I’ve tried everything to get my daughter help,” Tamra told Radar Online at the time. “Simon fought so hard to get Sidney out of therapy and he went as far as to drag his daughter into a courtroom to testify how she doesn’t want any more therapy.”
Tamra also said that a therapist had diagnosed a then-16-year-old Sidney with “parental alienation,” which occurs when a child rejects the parent he or she is not living with. Tamra even said Sidney’s therapist referred to Simon as “the gatekeeper.”
“It’s a bad case of parental alienation,” Tamra confessed on Watch What Happens Live in July 2015. “It’s hard and it’s still a struggle. I love her more than anything.”
Months later, Simon spoke out about Tamra’s claims, telling PEOPLE, “Not only does my daughter have to read and hear about what her mother says about her father on the Internet and various talk shows, she is forced to relive it over and over from her friends and classmates.”
Simon continued that he was protecting his daughter from Judge’s behavior on the Bravo reality show, specifically “the not-so-classy moments her mother is so famous for on the show which she is a main cast member, i.e., bathtub scene, talking about anal sex, talking about having sex with her husband, being topless, grabbing other women’s body parts, trash talking, throwing wine, drunk, having her private parts in a man’s face, having a male stripper’s private parts in her face and being overall abusive.”
But while Simon — who is engaged to Catushia Ienni, 36 – may have been mad at Tamra for airing their disagreements over Sidney, the broadcast of the season 10 reunion actually helped the family start talking to one another.
“All hell broke loose, and it was kind of a breakthrough in the sense that we were communicating,” Tamra told Bravo’s The Daily Dish in October 2016. “It wasn’t necessarily the best communication, but we were communicating.”
“I text her once a week, tell her I love her, I tell her the door’s always open for her, and let’s just try to get this family back together,” Tamra added.
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The experience motivated Tamra to begin working with Erasing Families — an organization that aims to reunite young adults with their estranged parents who have been “erased” by the court system. She’s appearing in a documentary they’re producing and even spoke at an Erasing Families event during season 12 of RHOC.
“I lived the past three-and-a-half years in what I call silent pain,” Tamra said in her speech. “People tell you all the time, ‘Don’t worry. She’ll be back. She’ll figure it out.’ Every time someone tells me that I want to punch them in the throat and say, ‘Don’t worry. It won’t hurt long.’ And then I gotta punch them again.”
“I do believe that my daughter will be back one day, just like I believe your children will all be back one day,” Tamra continued, hopeful. “Love your children more than you hate your ex. Kids deserve to have both parents in their life.”
By June 2017, it looked like all three had found a way back together when Tamra shared a collage of family photos from Sidney’s high school graduation.
“So many things to be proud of this month. Our family has come a long way and I couldn’t be happier,” Tamra captioned the pictures — which included a smiling Simon, Sidney, Spencer, Sophia and Vieth. “Simon and I are so proud of these amazing, smart, funny, beautiful & crazy kids,” she continued. “Congrats Sidney. Your smile lightens up the room and your future is so bright. #gaveituptojesus #2017 #family.”
Chatting with The Daily Dish in July, Tamra said she and Sidney are working on reconciling.
“We’ve had a long journey and we’re making progress, which is good,” she revealed. “If I can just help other people — I think the worst thing is, most people think they’re the only ones going through it. People don’t want to talk about it. People don’t share it. I’ve had neighbors come up to me and say, ‘I’m going through the same thing.’ ”
Sidney, though, didn’t seem to feel the same way.
In a lengthy Facebook rant, she accused her mother of doing “things that were toxic” and called Tamra “the true parent alienator.”
“The reasons I left my mother’s house are that she was neglectful (leaving us at home with no food or simply ignoring us entirely), she constantly put herself first and the biggest reason was that she was mentally and emotionally abusive,” Sidney detailed. “She was no mother to me.”
“The ONLY reason I am not living with her is because she continues to do the things that pushed me out of her house, like talking about me on the show/press/social media, doing embarrassing things on the show, lying to me and putting herself first to name a few,” Sidney continued.
Specifying a recent conflict, Sidney said she had asked Tamra not to post photos from her high school graduation and shared screengrabs of their apparent text exchange.
“[My father] forced me to let [Tamra] come to my graduation because it was a milestone. When I told my mother that she could come, I gave her a few conditions. All I asked was that she remains cordial with my father and my stepmom and to not post anything about my graduation, anywhere,” Sidney recalled.
“Not even two weeks after I graduated she posted a photo of me and shared it with her one million followers knowing that it would get picked up by the press. The one thing I asked and have been asking for 4 years now has been to not talk about me because I don’t want to be in the spotlight,” the teenager continued. “But Again breaking her promises as per usual, she puts herself, her fame, her reputation, and her bank account before me. If she really wanted a relationship she would keep her promises and recognize that it is no one elses fault but hers that I do not want her in my life.”
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According to Sidney, her mother isn’t acknowledging her own responsibility in the estrangement. “My mom has been portraying the innocent erased mother whose daughter was estranged from her due to divorce and an evil ex husband when in actuality she is the sole reason why I do not want her in my life and will not have a relationship with her,” Sidney said.
Responding in the comment section of Sidney’s Facebook post, Tamra wrote, “All I’ve ever done is love you from the second I found I was pregnant. I’m sorry you hate me so much. I fought so hard for you. I will always love and hope you realize one day how wrong all this is. So hurtful and not necessary.”
Tamra also thanked her fans for their support on Instagram and Twitter Wednesday, while on vacation in Aruba where she and Eddie renewed their vows.
“I want to say thank you to everyone that has reached out to me to see if I’m okay. I/We are trying our best to enjoy our vacation,” Tamra wrote. “Thank you to my Mom who is not taking this very well and feels the need to defend me. I love you Mom. I love my daughter and I would NEVER abuse, hurt or neglect her in any way.”
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Mondays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.