RHOC's Gina Kirschenheiter Called Off Divorce from Husband Matt Before Domestic Violence Charges
"I've been through a lot with him," Gina Kirschenheiter said. "I'm going to embrace this and I'm going to try this because this is my family."
Months before Gina Kirschenheiter filed domestic violence charges against her husband Matt Kirschenheiter, the former couple was in a good place — so good, in fact, that they decided to call off their impending divorce.
On Tuesday’s Real Housewives of Orange County, Gina, 35, opened up to her mother about the state of her relationship with Matt, revealing that the two were officially giving their marriage another try.
“Ultimately, we decided not to get divorced,” said Gina, who shares daughter Sienna, 5, and sons Nicholas, 7, and Luca, 4, with Matt.
“I feel like this is the first time that Matt is actually in the fight for his family,” she added. “We sort of both get it where we feel more connected now than we ever have.”
She stressed: “I’ve been through a lot with him. I’m going to embrace this and I’m going to try this because this is my family.”
The conversation, filmed in May, was a long time coming. In the weeks leading up to it, Gina had slowly been letting Matt back into her life, the two even sleeping together.
“He’s just changed, I’m telling you, he’s changed,” she told fellow Orange County Housewife Emily Simpson in an earlier RHOC episode, when asked if she could trust Matt after his previous infidelity. “He would never cheat on me again.”
“I have obviously trust issues. I think I would be naive to trust 100 percent. But I am really trying my best to let go of all that anger and to let my guard down again,” Gina shared, on Tuesday. “Because that’s the only way it’s going to work.”
Gina’s mom saw that change, especially after Matt learned that his daughter Sienna needed to go to occupational therapy for sensory issues.
“I didn’t really know Matt all that well. I knew the Matt he wanted to present to me,” Gina’s mom said. “I know him better now. And I saw one genuine moment in him in this whole craziness which was when Sienna needed to go for OT. And I could see in his face in that moment that he understood that was impacting his daughter.”
She wasn’t alone in thinking that. “I agree,” Gina said. “That was a real wakeup call. It’s like he’s in a coma.”
In spite of everything, Gina and Matt had still made the decision to sell their house in Coto de Daza, California — a bittersweet move for Gina.
“It’s a little bit difficult because I look around the house and I see a lot of happy memories but also I look around the house and see a lot of bad memories,” she explained.
College sweethearts, the former couple moved into the Coto house together when they first relocated from Long Island, New York, to the West Coast. Gina lived there full-time with the kids and Matt commuted there on the weekends from Los Angeles, where he was working at the time.
Ultimately, that distance — and Matt’s affair — led to Gina and Matt’s initial breakup. The duo went their separate ways in April 2018, filing for divorce after 11 years together (and eight years married).
Though they got back together in May, when Tuesday’s RHOC was filmed, Gina and Matt’s reconciliation didn’t last long.
On June 22, the two had a heated argument at Gina’s home, where Matt allegedly choked her, hit her, dragged her, threw her and threatened to kill her — all while their three young kids were sleeping in the other room, according to court documents obtained by The Blast. Cops were called after Gina ran to the the neighbors for help, and Matt was arrested.
A temporary restraining order was granted at that same time. In the paperwork for that, Gina alleged that there had been “other incidents that have scared [her] in the past … too many to remember,” including an argument in August 2018 involving a shotgun.
In September, Matt pleaded not guilty after the Orange County District Attorney’s Office slapped him with two felony charges for the alleged incident. If convicted, he would face up to four years imprisonment for domestic violence, and an additional three for false imprisonment.
According to documents obtained by TMZ, Matt allegedly “inflicted corporal injury resulting in a traumatic condition” upon Gina. He was also charged with false imprisonment, for allegedly grabbing Gina and dragging her on the pavement back into the house after she fled for support.
“The charges are just that, they’re just allegations,” Matt’s attorney, Ed Welbourn, told PEOPLE in a statement. “These type of cases, domestic violence type cases when there are are no independent witnesses, it’s a 1:1 situation and it really comes down to a credibility call.”
Welbourn continued: “Matt is a great dad, always has been. He’s a hardworking guy, has always provided for them. He’s an incredibly good person, and he’s very respected in the community. There’s also a divorce proceeding going on, he has unmonitored visitation — a decision that was made before this alleged incident. If Gina or the judge thought he was a danger, they would have not agreed to that. He’s not a violent person, he doesn’t have a history of that. He maintains his innocence and looks forward to the truth coming out and his day in court.”
Matt and Gina are still working through the terms of their ongoing divorce with the legal system.
In August, the two appeared to have come to a custody agreement, with Gina getting primary physical custody of their kids and nearly $10,000 in monthly support (they’d share legal custody, and Matt would see the kids on the weekends).
The two agreed to take one counseling co-parenting class per month together, too, and said they wouldn’t disparage each other in front of their kids or on RHOC. Future boyfriends/girlfriends wouldn’t be introduced to the kids without consulting with the other first, they determined.
But that same month, Matt filed court documents obtained by PEOPLE saying that his arrest had led to a “forced resignation” from his job as a financial account manager — the same job that wouldn’t allow him to appear on RHOC in the first place (he’s never been seen on the show).
Matt’s change in employment status, he claimed, meant that he was no longer making the income necessary to pay Gina. Her RHOC salary made her the primary moneymaker, he said.
RELATED: RHOC‘s Gina Kirschenheiter Calls New Boyfriend ‘Extremely Trustworthy’ Amid Ongoing Divorce
As they wait to figure that out, Gina still has compassion for Matt
“There is a part of my heart that feels bad for Matt because he wasn’t really a part of this to begin with and he’s not a monster,” Gina said back in September, during a visit to PEOPLE Now. “It’s an emotional time, and people make mistakes. He’s made a lot of them, obviously.”
She went on to stress that her and Matt’s disagreements aren’t over their children.
“There is actually no custody battle, there really is not,” she said. “Even with things going on with Matt, as they are now, he actually has more custody than he’s ever had because he’s not employed anymore, so he’s around.”
“We’re really good on that,” she said, adding that their kids are doing well. “I would never keep the kids from him. He’s a really good dad.”
Gina has also started a new relationship with boyfriend Travis Mullen.
“We just really clicked from very early on,” she told PEOPLE Now. “We have the same perspective on a lot stuff and a lot of the same values. We really make each other laugh. We’re both just goofballs. It works.”
“I just know he’s a person that’s extremely trustworthy, extremely loyal,” she said.
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Tuesdays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.