U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford would face new limits on visitation with his youngest son if ex-wife Jenny Sanford gets her way in court in two weeks.
Jenny Sanford filed a new complaint in their 4-year-old divorce case, saying a "substantial change of circumstances" has developed, so the ex-governor's visitation with his youngest son should be limited.
She also is asking the court to require Sanford to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and enroll in anger management and parenting programs.
Sanford, R-S.C., who is running unopposed Nov. 4 for a new term, did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for Sept. 15 in Charleston.
Her filing also asks the court to bar both of them from the following:
Exposing their youngest son "overnight to a member of the opposite sex not related to the plaintiff or defendant through blood or marriage." Sanford is engaged to Maria Belen Chapur - the woman whose affair with Sanford led to the scandal that marked his final years as governor - but they have not announced a wedding date.
Making any negative comments about the other in the presence of their youngest son.
Discussing any aspect of this case around their youngest son.
Taking illegal or unprescribed prescription drugs or "excessive amounts of alcohol" while responsible for the care of their youngest son.
Jenny Sanford also is seeking to have a guardian ad litem - a court-appointed official - to look after their youngest son's best interests on the ongoing legal proceedings, and she is seeking to have the case sealed from the public.
Her request to seal the record cited the previous media and public interest in the case, as well as her son's status as a high school sophomore.
"I believe that the allegations in this case will have the potential to cause our son unnecessary embarrassment and ridicule," her affidavit says. "Further ... I would like him to be able to share his concerns and wishes free from public scrutiny."
Mark Sanford was considered by some as an emerging presidential contender when he secretly visited Chapur in her home country of Argentina in 2009. Sanford's staff told reporters the governor was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
While Sanford remained in office, he and Jenny Sanford divorced in 2010. Meanwhile, new scrutiny about his travel and conduct led to a series of ethics charges that he settled by admitting no guilt but by paying the largest ethics fine in state history.
Despite all that - and a fresh legal accusation that Sanford violated his divorce agreement by being in his ex-wife's home without her permission to watch the 2013 Super Bowl - Sanford won a seat in Congress last year. The 1st District seat, which Sanford held from 1994-2000, was vacated when Tim Scott was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
In July, Sanford and his ex-wife appeared before Family Court Judge Paul W. Garfinkel, who ordered them to work with a mediator to resolve a dispute over money for their two youngest sons.
At the time, Sanford told the judge, "There has been a pattern of taking me to court about issues that could be resolved by reasonable people." He said then that he hoped mediation would work.
Some political observers doubted whether this most recent twist in his divorce case would affect his political career.
College of Charleston political science chair Gibbs Knotts noted Sanford is unopposed this year, "and voters tend to have a short memory when it comes to these types of issues."
He said Sanford also has fundamentals on his side. "He is a Republican in a solidly Republican district," Knotts said. "I just don't see Republicans deciding to abandon Sanford and vote for a Democrat in a general election because of this type of personal issue."
Knotts' colleague, political science professor Jordan Ragusa, agreed the developments likely will have little effect. He noted divorce is more accepted today, and voters won't look at Sanford's marital issues as much as his voting record.
"If this kind of stuff mattered, and I don't think it does, it should have already sunk his political career," Ragusa said. "Of course, if these legal proceedings bring some really ugly information to the forefront, it could change everything."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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