Gina Kirschenheiter wants Real Housewives of Orange County fans to know that her estranged husband Matt Kirschenheiter is “not a monster,” even as he faces charges of domestic violence and false imprisonment stemming from an alleged fight they had in June that led to his arrest.
In an interview with PEOPLE Now that aired on Tuesday, Gina, 35, revealed that she has compassion for Matt as they navigate their divorce
“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. “It’s an emotional time, and people make mistakes. He’s made a lot of them, obviously.”
Part of the reason Gina said she can stay so optimistic is because she and Matt “don’t really communicate.”
“We communicate through a website, but it’s good for us,” she said. “It’s actually helping us to stay in bounds and have a healthy relationship moving forward. I’m hopeful that in the future, things will get better and it won’t always be like this.”
That site has especially come in handy as the two co-parent their three children: daughter Sienna, 5, and sons Nicholas, 7, and Luca, 4.
Though she admitted it can make co-parenting “tougher,” she told PEOPLE Now, “Matt and I being away from each other is the best thing for our children.”
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 insisted that the two had grown apart, were parting on good terms and would be co-parenting 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, on June 22, 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.
Matt has also not responded to Gina’s cheating allegations, but in September, plead not guilty after the Orange County District Attorney’s Office slapped him with two felony charges for the alleged battle.
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’s next day in court will be on Oct. 10, when he and Gina will meet to discuss the terms of their ongoing 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.
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As they wait to figure that out, Gina did stress during her PEOPLE Now visit that she 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.”
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