South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford filed for divorce last week after several attempts at reconciling with her estranged husband, Governor Mark Sanford. Sanford made the news six months ago after he disappeared and
was ultimately discovered returning from a rendezvous in Argentina with a mistress.
The Sanfords have four sons and have been married for 20 years. Mark Sanford previously described his mistress Maria Belen Chapur as his “soul mate.”
Jenny Sanford, a former Wall Street executive, has been living in the family’s beach home with their sons since she moved out of the governor’s mansion in August.
Jenny Sanford’s divorce complaint was filed on the grounds of adultery. She appears to be an exception to the recent trend of public wives who have stood behind their adulterous husbands.
Mark Sanford did not tell his family or his staff where he was back in June when he left for a week to be with Chapur in Argentina. His staff told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail but reporters discovered him at the airport upon his return home. He then confessed the affair at a news conference. Subsequently, a series of intense emails between Mark Sanford and Chapur were made public.
Jenny Sanford indicated an openness to reconciliation at the time. She had learned of the affair several months earlier but thought that it had ended, despite several requests from Mark Sanford to visit Chapur. (Jenny Sanford would not give her okay to such a visit.)
Jenny Sanford comes from a wealthy family. Her grandfather founded the Skil Corp., which manufactures power tools. Another grandfather ran a large Chicago law firm. She graduated from Georgetown University and was a vice president for the Wall Street investment banking firm Lazard Freres & Co. in the 1980s. She met Mark Sanford in New York, where he also worked on Wall Street.
They married in 1989 and moved to South Carolina, where Sanford worked in real estate before serving three terms in Congress. Jenny Sanford ran his campaigns.
It is unknown whether the Sanfords have a prenuptial agreement. Mark Sanford had a comfortable, even affluent upbringing but doesn’t appear to have nearly the family wealth that his wife has. It would have been smart of Jenny Sanford and her family to protect that wealth in some manner – either through a prenuptial agreement or a trust.
This month, South Carolina legislators recommended that the governor be formally rebuked rather than impeached for the situation. (He apparently used state planes and funds for personal and political trips, including travel to see Chapur.)