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Published: Saturday, 2/27/2010

South Carolina governor's split proceeds


CHARLESTON, S.C. - South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's divorce will become final next month, just over a year after the first lady discovered his affair with a woman he later called his soul mate.

Family Court Judge Jocelyn Cate said yesterday she plans to OK Jenny Sanford's request to split from her husband of 20 years. The divorce takes effect in mid-March.

Ms. Sanford attended a 20-minute hearing without her husband. Afterward, she said she considers it "the beginning of a new chapter for me and for our children."

She filed for divorce in December on grounds of adultery, saying reconciliation efforts were unsuccessful. "The dissolution of a 20-year marriage is not a cause for celebration," she said. "It's a sad occasion."

Mr. Sanford had told his staff he was going hiking along the Appalachian Trail and disappeared for five days last summer, returning to publicly confess he had been in Argentina visiting Maria Belen Chapur, his mistress for a year.

Even after the publication of passionate e-mail exchanges between her husband and Ms. Chapur, and an interview in which Mr. Sanford called Ms. Chapur his "soul mate" and admitted "crossing the line" with other women, Ms. Sanford said she was willing to reconcile with him.

But she said in court yesterday that those efforts did not work.

She said she had learned about the affair in January, 2008, when she found a copy of a letter written to Ms. Chapur by her husband, once considered a possible 2012 GOP presidential contender. In the months that followed, he asked several times for permission to visit his mistress, she said. Ms. Sanford said no.

The day his wife filed for divorce, Mr. Sanford blamed himself for "the moral failure that led us to this tragic point." In a reply to the filing, he admitted the affair and asked the court to approve his wife's request to end their marriage.

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