Gina Kirschenheiter and her estranged husband Matt Kirschenheiter might be involved in an ugly divorce — one that made headlines on Wednesday when Matt was hit with domestic violence charges related to his June arrest — but a source close to the Real Housewives of Orange County star tells PEOPLE she’s hopeful the two will be able to coparent their three children together in the future.
“Matt is always going to be family for Gina,” the insider says of Gina — who shares sons Nicholas, 7, and Luca, 4, as well as daughter Sienna, 5, with Matt. “She wants him in their children’s lives in the long term. She’s hoping they can work through the difficulties they’re having now and find peace.”
“The process has been really hard for Gina,” the source adds. “She never anticipated that she and Matt would be going through something like this in the public eye. She may be on a reality show, but she’s a very reserved person when she’s hurt, and she had hoped the two of them could settle their differences behind the scenes. She’s disappointed that’s not what’s been able to happen, for both of their sakes.”
Through the troubling times, the Long Island native has been “leaning on her family and friends for support,” the source explains.
“She spent some time over the summer back in Long Island with the kids and her parents, which really helped ground her,” says the insider. “Now that she’s been back in the OC, it’s just been about staying focused on her family.”
The sources also says, “She loves those kids so much. She’s a dedicated mom and is doing everything she can to protect them from the turmoil between her and Matt to make sure they’re having a happy childhood.” A rep for Gina had no comment when reached out to by PEOPLE.
College sweethearts, Gina and Matt were together for 11 years and married for eight before separating in April 2018 and filing for divorce.
Initially, Gina, 35, insisted that the two had grown apart, were parting on good terms and would be coparenting together — telling PEOPLE last September that Matt was still her “best friend” and “the most important person to me.”
They even appeared to reconcile in June, with Gina posting a loving message to Matt on his birthday and insisting, “I’m your person and you’re mine.”
But days later, the two had a heated argument at Gina’s home in which 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.
Gina has also claimed on this season of RHOC that Matt cheated on her and was still in a relationship with the woman.
Neither Gina nor Matt have responded to PEOPLE’s request for comment about their legal matters. Matt has also not responded to Gina’s cheating allegations.
On Wednesday, Matt was charged by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office with domestic violence stemming from their June argument.
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.
Meanwhile, Gina and Matt are also still working through terms of their divorce.
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.
They’re next due in court on Oct. 10.