The past year has been a whole lot of extra for the cast of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.
Snooki had her third baby. Vinny and Pauly D got their own Bachelor-esque spin-off. Ronnie's relationship with his child's mother continued to sporadically implode. The Situation got married and went to prison.
And, perhaps most surprisingly, JWoww got divorced.
A year ago Jennifer Farley filed for divorce from her longtime love, Roger Mathews, after less than three years of marriage.
The couple had been together since JWoww's Jersey Shore days and, while their relationship wasn't without its hiccups while Farley partied heartily with her MTV-assembled roommates, they generally were the sweet, stable eye of the smush storm raging around them. They have a daughter, Meilani, and a son, Greyson.
So, when Farley started divorce proceedings in early September, 2018, it was a sad day for love that had at one point defied the reality-TV odds.
"There was no cheating or anything like that," a source told E! News at the time."They have deep-rooted issues that have been going on for a long time and since before the Jersey Shore reboot even started filming."
"My wife filed for divorce, it's true...I don't blame her," wrote Mathews, taking to social media once the news broke, a couple weeks after Farley took action. "There's no cheating or any dumb s--t or any juicy details. She just grew tired of the repetitive pattern that we fell into. Again, I am not going to get into detail, but it was a repetitive pattern and not a good one."
With that in mind, Mathews vowed he would win JWoww back, saying they were in counseling and he wasn't planning on being a single dad.
They even went on a romantic date—as in carriage-ride romantic—to purportedly celebrate their third wedding anniversary in October, a sign that perhaps Mathews' plan was succeeding. Then, not surprisingly, the whole family spent Halloween together.
It was unclear whether Farley was ever seriously entertaining the idea of reconciling, but they at least seemed to be on the same page about keeping life on an even keel for their kids, so all looked pretty amicable. Not to mention, neither Farley nor Mathews had moved out of the house they'd been sharing, but they slept in separate rooms.
The source had told us that their breakup was due to "a combination of different lifestyles, incompatibility and parenting issues that led to this point. Their relationship hasn't been healthy for a while, but even though Jenni already filed for divorce, it's still not totally over yet—there's a chance they could work it out and get back together."
But then, that changed.
In December, Farley filed for a restraining order against Mathews, accusing him of becoming verbally abusive during an argument that—according to him—started when she informed him she needed to leave town for work on days on which she'd previously told him she was free to watch their kids. He confronted her and she became "irate and started screaming," according to the police report of Mathews' account.
Farley told police, however, that Mathews had screamed at her that she was "a piece of s--t mother, and is damaging to their kids." He "frequently records her with his cell phone, threatening to post it to the internet," she said, per the report.
In the moment, Farley declined to file for an emergency restraining order, but she changed her mind not long after the police left. They returned and she secured the order, giving her temporary sole custody and preventing Mathews from living in the house.
Mathews jumped on Instagram, posting 10 videos to trying to explain what went down. He said that Jenni threatened to call police, after which he said he'd call them himself—and did. After they'd come and gone, Mathews continued, he was woken up at 2 a.m. by the cops, who were back to escort him out of the house. He wasn't arrested, but was given a ride in a squad car all the same.
"I am not the violent one," he said. "I assure you. And I don't want to have to prove that, I do not want that to go down the road, but I'm prepared, 'cause I have to be because I'm just dumbfounded, I can't believe a person would do this to me and not let me see my kids."
"Certain events transpired last night which led Jenni to involve authorities, as she felt it was in her best interests, and the best interests of her children to do so," read a statement posted on Farley's behalf to her Instagram. "Any statements and social media posts depicting anything to the contrary are entirely false, misleading, and intentionally designed to cast Jenni in a negative light. She is proud to be a hard working parent who provides for her children."
Meanwhile, Jersey Shore: Family Vacation had just been renewed for a third season.
Which meant, at least, that Farley had work to keep her busy and, as always, a close circle of friends that included Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi rallying to her side.
"My best friend has been going through A LOT these past few months and my heart breaks for her," Snooki wrote after Mathews first shared his side of the story online. "She always tries to keep her situations off social media for the sake of the kids, but her voice needs to be heard too. She has tried everything in her power to keep things civil FOR THE KIDS and she's a damn good mother. She doesn't leave her kids for months at a time for work. She leaves filming to care for her children that you don't see."
Polizzi even shared a video that was apparently surveillance footage caught by their Nest smart home system of Farley talking to the police at her house.
"She wants nothing but for the kids to have their dad," Snooki continued. "Unfortunately she was being taunted and baited & this was the result. YOU'RE AN AMAZING MOTHER AND PERSON and all of us who truly know you know this. There is more to the story that's being told. Stop attacking her."
The video showed an officer telling Farley that, if she requested it, a judge would grant her "sole parenting" in the days leading up to the TRO hearing. And she told the officer, "I don't want to do that to him. He should be allowed to see them." She added, "He's not a bad dad."
Social media was in full effect when JWoww & Co. hit the Shore in 2008, but it was nothing like the instant-online-judgment culture we're operating in now. While Farley could handle your basic trolls, accusations of being a bad wife and, more egregious yet, a bad mom proved to be too much. And pile-ons instigated by her ex were her limit.
In late January, she stood up for herself online, posting an open letter to Roger (since deleted): "I can no longer sit idly by while you mistreat and malign me in such an egregious manner," the mother-of-two writes. "You have presented yourself to the public as a praiseworthy father and a husband who has been suffering by my alleged actions and behavior."
Mathews' posts, she alleged, were "consumed with inaccuracies, false statements, self-serving comments, outright misrepresentations and blatant lies."
Farley further accused Mathews of siccing her ex, Thomas Lippolis, on her in an attempt to intimidate her. Lippolis, who she dated in early episodes of Jersey Shore before Mathews, was arrested in December for alleged attempted extortion, with police stating that Lippolis stood accused of contacting JWoww's publicist and demanding $25,000 or else he'd go public with private information about her. (Farley has also accused Lippolis of physical abuse, which he denies.)
But JWoww was determined to recapture her independence, concluding her letter with a shout-out to anyone who might be in an abusive relationship, acknowledging that it was hard to get out of one, but it was important to ask for help.
"So many of you may be understandably afraid to come forward, and have been stuck in abusive relationships for far too long just as I have been," she wrote. "If anyone is feeling down, broken, hurt, or lost, please know that it is not your fault! Please don't feel alone. Please seek help. I was there for many years and you and your children deserve to be safe. You are valuable, you are worthy, you are loved."
Mathews fired back in his own lengthy post, publicly replying to Farley, "I wonder why in the eight years together you never once, not once said to me or ANYONE for that matter that I was physically abusive with you in any way. You have punched me in the face you have always been the aggressor...You are always the aggressor."
Mathews then accused Farley in court documents of violating an order pertaining to the divorce with her open letter, charging that it was a "fictitious and defamatory account of alleged unilateral, abusive conduct." Then he went to court to challenge the terms of their prenup and asked for full primary custody of Meilani and Greyson.
Per The Blast, Farley's response was a simple request that the prenup still be considered valid and for the judge to shut down her ex's custody demand. She, in the meantime, wanted Mathews to have visitation and pay child support.
"Jenni is going to continue to live her life as the amazing and strong mother that she is," a source told Hollywood Life in February, "despite Roger continuing to slam her. She will never just give up custody of her children."
It's amazing what a difference a few months and some lifestyle changes can make.
Let the recent episode of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation called "How JWoww Got Her Groove Back" explain. In April Farley opened up on Snooki's podcast about her a new boyfriend, a 24-year-old only referred to at first as "24" on the show. The fellow 10 years her junior turned out to be Zack Clayton Carpinello, a "polo-khaki-wearing" white boy who was her complete opposite (and who incidentally was at her wedding, which he attended with his sister, in October, 2015).
Snooki said she had never seen her friend happier.
While that sounded like the sort of thing that might set Roger off on another Instagram rant, he told E! News at the time, "I'm extremely happy for her."
"Jenni has had a super hard year," a source shared with E! News. "Right now, she just wants to smile a little and feel good. It's hard to say when things between them turned romantic but she's always been into wrestling and fighting so no one was really that surprised by this."
Carpinello, a wrestler, grew up about 11 miles away from Farley in central New York, and they were enjoying low-key dates and getting to know each other. "There are no secrets between them," the source said. "For now, they just enjoy spending time together."
They made their red carpet debut in June at an event in Las Vegas, and Farley attributed the big smile on her face (matched by the one on Carpinello's face) to "just living life."
"I realized, probably early on," she told E! News, "that life is too short, so you just got to enjoy it. I'm enjoying Vegas with Zack." He was teaching her about wrestling, she added, and she was "just appreciating having good times."
They had a good laugh over the whole first-met-at-her-wedding anecdote. "I met her as a friend," Carpinello said, and they had "kept in simple touch" over the years.
His sister, Farley's longtime best friend, suggested they connect when JWoww was taking a trip to Disneyland, near where he lives. "Here we are!" he added.
Asked if she regretted spilling too many beans on Snooki's podcast, Jenni said, "I feel like the best way to live life is to be completely transparent, because nobody can hold anything against you. So when I decided to bring him into my picture, and in my crazy life, I just said, 'You know, you're going to have to enjoy the ride,' and I'm just going to be"—she batted the air for emphasis—"fully transparent with everything, good, bad or indifferent.
"And hopefully it won't bite me in the ass later in life."
Hence Farley eventually getting around to living her best life in front of the cameras again.
On Family Vacation she said, "He just really makes my heart, like, feel something, besides being dead inside. Feels good."
In June, per Radar, Farley and Mathews voluntarily entered into a confidential marital settlement agreement that included the stipulations originally outlined in their prenup, as well as fixed custody and visitation time. Their divorce was finalized on Aug. 29, with Farley's rep telling E! News that ultimately the conclusion was "amicable" and they would "remain devoted to co-parenting their children in a happy and healthy environment and they both wish each other the best."
A few days ago she and Zack returned to the place where their courtship began—Disneyland and Downtown Disney, site of their first date.
And nowadays she's getting much nicer messages on Instagram.
"Complete appreciation post for my best friend, and the most amazing woman ever for so many reasons, who I love more than anything," Carpinello captioned a recent pic of them kissing at Discovery Cove, another family-fun day with her kids. "We are having the time of our lives together."
Though a year ago she may have been wondering if good times would ever come again, the sun is once again shining on JWoww.