Former S.C. governor Sanford accused of violating divorce terms

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford has again been accused of violating his divorce settlement with ex-wife Jenny Sanford, who filed papers this week asking that he be found in contempt of court and “punished accordingly.”

The specific accusation was redacted by Charleston County Family Court Judge Jocelyn Cate, who has handled the couple’s divorce proceedings.

Mark Sanford’s spokesman indicated Friday that the issue includes his family’s farm, known as Coosaw Plantation in Beaufort County.

The court documents accuse Mark Sanford of violating a provision in their settlement “by failing and refusing to work together to attempt ...” The rest of the sentence was marked out by Cate before the complaint was released. Their 2010 divorce decree includes a separation and property settlement that was under seal and not made public.

“Moreover, he has pointedly ignored requests by Plaintiff (Jenny Sanford) and her attorney to address this issue,” the filing also said.

Repeated calls to Jenny Sanford and her attorney, Charleston lawyer Deena Smith McRackan, were not returned.

Sanford’s press office issued a statement indicating the dispute involved the farm, which was purchased by Sanford’s father decades ago and is where Mark Sanford and his siblings were raised.

“The papers that we just learned were filed yesterday (Thursday) are a deliberate attempt to attract unnecessary public attention to what is a private family real estate matter at Rep. Sanford’s family farm,” spokesman Jon Kohan said in an email.

He continued, “Choosing to settle this sort of minor disagreement in court is surprising, and even more unfortunate is when attempts are made to air these things out in the court of public opinion, which appears to be the goal here.”

This is at least the second run-in the pair has had over stipulations in their divorce settlement. Last year as Sanford was campaigning to reclaim the 1st Congressional District seat he previously held in the 1990s, Jenny Sanford filed papers alleging he had violated their divorce decree by entering her Sullivan’s Island home while she was not there.

Sanford said he had gone inside to watch the Super Bowl with one of their sons.

The complaint was later settled with Sanford admitting to being in contempt of their divorce document and agreeing to pay $5,000 to defray her legal bills. He also agreed to keep off her property or face the prospect of appearing before a judge without a claim of immunity.

The agreement came a day after 1st District voters chose him in a 54 percent to 45 percent win over Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

At the time the complaint was settled, Sanford had faced up to a year in prison, a $1,500 fine and as many as 300 hours of community service. Judge Cate also said she would hold off any sentencing on Sanford’s contempt admission based upon his future compliance.

It was not immediately clear whether the current dispute might affect Cate’s earlier condition, or even if it is still in effect.

The Sanfords’ marriage dissolved as the result of a highly publicized affair that Mark Sanford had while governor with Argentine woman Maria Belen Chapur. He left the state on his own accord to visit Chapur in what became known his “hike on the Appalachian Trail” for how his staff explained his whereabouts. The couple is now engaged.

Sanford appears easily headed toward another term in Congress this year, as no candidate from any party filed against him.

In her filing, Jenny Sanford said she would be willing to engage in mediation or arbitration at his expense to move the process along.