Legal troubles re-emerge for S.C.’s Sanford with ex-wife’s complaint

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is photographed in his office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) is photographed in his office on Capitol Hill on February 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT) MCT

Congressman Mark Sanford is bracing for a new round of legal trouble after his ex-wife, Jenny Sanford, asked a judge to order the South Carolina Republican to undergo mental evaluations and anger management classes.

The request, made on Aug. 28, is part of the former wife’s effort to modify the custody arrangement stemming from the couple’s 2010 divorce.

It’s been a long divorce drama for Sanford and his former wife, whose marriage was a casualty of a very public 2009 cheating scandal. Sanford was governor at the time.

The complaint, first reported Tuesday by Charleston-based CBS affiliate Live 5 News, also reportedly seeks to limit the amount of time the former South Carolina governor can spend with his youngest son.

Sanford’s office did not respond to requests for comment by deadline, and calls to the congressman’s cell phone number were not returned. Calls to Jenny Sanford also were not returned.

The petition was filed by the Mount Pleasant-based Ramsdale law firm.

“This is a private family matter for the family courts to address,” said Jenny Sanford’s lawyer, Marie-Louise Ramsdale. “She wants to protect the privacy of the youngest child. . . . One of her goals in this case, a wish, quite frankly, is to protect the privacy of their youngest child.”

Ramsdale added that they are asking the court to seal the file.

The timing of the lawsuit could have been problematic for Sanford, who is having his dirty laundry aired during the heated final stretch towards the November midterms. Instead, Sanford is running unopposed this fall, despite emerging from a packed primary to win a House seat in last year’s special election.

“This is the kind of stuff that really wears on the electorate: embarrassment,” said David Woodard, a political science professor at South Carolina’s Clemson University. “This really is the kind of old politician that we had in South Carolina. And he was supposed to be different from them.”

Since the couple’s divorce, it hasn’t been smooth sailing, despite Sanford’s insistence that the two are on civil terms.

The latest filing is not Sanford’s first legal brush-up with his ex-wife. Last year, he was accused of violating divorce terms when he entered his former wife’s home. He later admitted he came over to watch the Super Bowl with his then 14-year-old son.

The trespassing violation occurred during the heat of Sanford’s political resurrection, right before the 2013 special election that would put him in a U.S. House seat and back on the national stage. It’s a journey that has captivated skeptics and rallied supporters since the 54-year-old’s epic fall from political grace in 2009.

In a narrative that still serves as easy media fodder, Sanford famously went missing for six days in the summer of 2009, leaving his family, friends and even his governor’s office staff at a loss. His spokesman told the press that he was “hiking the Appalachian trail.”

Sanford, instead, was in Buenos Aires courting his Argentine mistress, to whom he is now engaged. He admitted to the affair not long after returning to South Carolina, separated from his wife, finished out his governor’s term and disappeared out of the spotlight in 2011. Sanford re-emerged last year to run for the vacant House seat after then-Rep. Tim Scott was tapped to fill departing Sen. Jim DeMint’s place.

A hearing on the most recent court filing is set for Sept. 15.