Two and a half years after completing a nearly four year long divorce, Real Housewives of New York City star Bethenny Frankel and her ex-husband, Jason Hoppy, just can’t seem to quit each other when it comes to courtrooms. The latest round of post-marital infighting is playing out because of dueling custody petitions that were launched last year.
Bethenny wants sole custody of their daughter, 8-year-old Bryn, based on Jason’s plea agreement to stalking and harassment charges against her. Jason has sought additional scrutiny of his ex-wife’s drinking and alleged drug use after the overdose death last August of her longtime boyfriend, Dennis Shields. The court had previously scolded Jason for manipulating a tragedy, but put this week’s hearing on the calendar months ago.
It has not gone well for either party. According to reporting by Page Six, much of the first day of the hearing was consumed in reading out text messages Jason had sent Bethenny, which ran the gamut of calling her bitter and classless to mocking her for being Jewish. Early in the day, Bethenny’s lawyers took Jason to task for a series of texts he sent her questioning the type of role model she is to Bryn. “Think of the example your [sic] setting for her … you’re perceived as a mean girl…#zerof–ks.”
Bethenny clapped back in the exchange, noting, “Fyi, this ‘mean girl’s’ ratings are way up. And provides for you, bryn, and pays your rent.” She later wrote, “you’re the example of a deadbeat man who needs a woman to support him.”
More broadly, her argument against Jason appeared to center around his alleged lack of impulse control. She accused him of, among other things, physically yanking Bryn from her arms, leaving negative articles about Bethenny around the house they shared through much of the divorce, locking her dog in a storage closet for hours and not revealing where he’d put her, and not flushing the toilet when he was done in the bathroom.
While Bethenny’s team worked to portray the parenting relationship between them as irreparably broken, Jason’s team, somewhat unexpectedly, attempted to put a happy face on the whole thing. “The idea the relationship between the parties is so broken is not true,” his lawyer, Robert Wallack, told the judge. He insisted that the pair are successfully raising a great child together and that Bethenny is transposing her issues with their personal relationship onto the custody matter.
If day one of the hearing was any indication, Jason’s lawyers will have their work cut out for them in substantiating their argument. Bethenny’s attorney read out a text exchange where Jason appeared to mock her Jewish faith, which she has reconnected with in recent years. “Is everything okay? You seem very upset. And oh yeah, happy holidays,” he wrote in one, acknowledging on the stand that he was making fun of Bethenny for celebrating Jewish holidays. When, in the text exchange, Bethenny asked him to back off so they could enjoy the holiday weekend with friends and family, Jason texted back, “Holiday? That’s hysterical.” Later, he wrote, “apparently you’re now Jewish” with a laughing emoji.
Jason tried to defend himself under questioning from attorney Allan Mayefsky, stating, “I have no bad feelings toward any religion. I have many Jewish friends.” This provoked barely restrained laughter from Bethenny in the courtroom. As the day progressed, things didn’t get much better for Jason. Mayefsky asked him about another text that Jason had sent after their original custody agreement was reached in 2014. It read, “You’re a sad, miserable, bitter, and unhappy person to not let me see my daughter, and I’ll pray for you. You’re exactly like your mother.”
“I take full responsibility, looking back,” Jason responded to the courtroom. He then made eye contact with Bethenny herself and said, “I apologize for writing that to you.”
The second day of the hearing was, if anything, stranger still. On Tuesday, Dr. Alan Ravitz, a forensic psychologist, took the stand. Ravitz was there to speak specifically about Bryn’s mental health and how she copes with both a famous mother and the abysmal relationship between her parents. He had interviewed Bryn back in 2013, when the split was new, and ahead of the current hearing.
When Jason’s lawyer asked if Ravitz believed that Bryn was being negatively impacted by her mother’s celebrity, he burst out, “Who the hell knows!” He seemed slightly embarrassed, and corrected himself by adding, “I don’t know that Bryn being exposed to publicity is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think there’s any data to suggest that it’s good or bad as a general kind of principle.”
Page Six reports that he then turned to apologize to Judge Michael Katz for his language, prompting Katz to quip, “That’s your professional opinion?”
As professional opinions go, Ravitz noted that Bryn, despite her parents’ troubles, is doing very well. While the girl is quite aware of the problems, she’s a good student, maintains friendships, and carries other hallmarks of normalcy. While Ravitz saw plenty to criticize in the parents, his recommendation to the court was that Bryn’s best interests would be served by continuing with a shared custody agreement, and he described Jason as a caring, loving, attentive, and involved parent.
Meanwhile, Bethenny’s lawyers continued to build the case that the two can’t productively work together, noting that when Bryn was not admitted to the Friends Seminary Day School in 2015, they exchanged ugly recriminations, blaming each other for her rejection. Jason emailed Bethenny to let her know that in his opinion, “It seems that our daughter’s being disadvantaged solely because of her mother.” Bethenny fired back, “Perhaps they are aware of your cousin being incarcerated as a pedophile, your uncle’s overdose or your cousin’s identity theft.”
The binder of awful communications between them was reportedly quite large. The judge will make a decision about Bryn’s custody in the coming weeks.
Sometimes divorce leaves issues to be resolved. If your marriage in Queens is ending, or your divorce agreement isn’t meeting your needs, get experienced help right away. Call the divorce and child custody attorneys at Zelenitz, Shapiro & D’Agostino today at 718-523-1111 for a free consultation.