Mark Sanford, Trespassing to Watch Football Isn’t Legit

Mark Sanford interview photoOne of the most difficult and hurtful things about the process of divorce is one adult finding out that the “family home” is no longer theirs and that they are no longer welcome. Whether they built it brick-by-brick, were in charge of remodeling it to fit the needs of the family, or painted all the art that’s hanging on the walls, when a divorce settles, 99% of the time the family home goes to one parent and the other is no longer welcome without the express permission of the other.

Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford apparently forgot that reality or just chose to ignore it when he learned that his 14yo son was home alone in the former family house on Sullivan’s Island, North Carolina, watching the Superbowl on TV.

Rather than have the boy watch the game by himself, Sanford made a major error in judgment and decided that it was okay if he just showed up and watched the game with his son. He claims he called his ex, Jenny, to get permission, but they never spoke and his mistake was in deciding that no answer = approval.

What’s confusing about this as a divorced father is that it’s a matter of 60 seconds to identify that there are three sports bars actually on Sullivan’s Island, according to Yelp, and if you expand the search to places within 5 miles, there’s even a place that sounds a bit more appropriate for a teen boy, Red Drum Gastropub, described as a “nice big bar with many TVs, great for watching sports”.

I understand firsthand the pain of divorce and the difficulty of wanting to step in and offer your child what you believe is a better situation or experience or activity than your ex, but that’s all just part of the journey of post-divorce parenting. At fourteen, Sanford’s son is old enough to also step out with Dad on a Sunday afternoon for a few hours, and even if it’s unscheduled (and did you forget that the Superbowl was happening that day, Mark?) that’s still better than trespassing.

Jenny is right in her complaint. Mark was wrong. They divorced back in 2010, so there’s been plenty of time for them to figure out how to make this work with their four children.

It’s also interesting to see how journalists are reporting this. As you might expect, those journalists who support Mark Sanford are producing headlines like this one from the Associated Press: “Ex-wife says former SC Gov. Sanford trespassed” (e.g., not that he did actually trespass, but that she “said” he did) while more levelheaded publications like USA Today report “Will trespass charge hurt Mark Sanford?“, a smarter headline that casts no aspersions or doubts on the ex-wife and asks the pertinent question: is this going to affect his campaign efforts?

There’s no great outcome for this situation. Mark was wrong to go into Jenny’s home without explicit permission, whether there was a Superbowl game on or not. If there was imminent danger to his son it could have been excused — he pulls up to pick up the boy and the place is on fire! — but lacking that, watching something on TV is the weakest, daftest rationalization possible. And doubly so when there were great places to catch the game on a big screen TV within a five minute drive.

5 comments on “Mark Sanford, Trespassing to Watch Football Isn’t Legit

  1. Unless this was a pattern of behavior, then she over-reacted. Unless he did something more than watch the game, she over-reacted. Legally she may be right, but this does not build strong parenting relationships. Tell him to never do this again, and then be done with it, unless he does it again. My ex removed property from my home, and there was no consequence. Partly because I chose not to have one, and partly because no one would do much more than reprimand her for it. She didn’t even return the property. This is a low blow even if he used bad judgement.

    • It had become a pattern of behavior for him. She had requested he not enter the home and his attorney had been sent written notice by her attorney that he not enter the home. She only filed the complaint after he repeated the behavior and continued to defy their court ordered divorce settlement.

      Since this is repeated behavior on his part I doubt seriously it has anything to do with his children and more to do with him thinking that divorce court orders are to be thwarted. This is, after-all the same guy who disappeared for days while governor of South Carolina. He could be someone who feels the rules, legal, moral or societal, don’t apply to him.

  2. Here’s the point that the press (and the author, and Cathy above) have conveniently forgotten…

    The former family home is the SON’S HOME NOW also (in addition to the ex-wife’s). Did anyone bother to ask HIM if he preferred to watch the game at home – or at some pub somewhere on the island – or elsewhere???

    The point is simple – he should minimally have the right to an opinion in this. If he (son) says he’d like to watch the game there, he should be allowed to have his father there with him to do it.

    Yes, I’m divorced. I get it. My ex-wife & I have a great relationship. She’s reasonable & I respect her space (my former house). But she ALSO recognizes my daughter may want to spend time hanging out with me at a place she’s comfortable – our former home.

    It seems obvious to me there’s a lack of common sense on BOTH SIDES of this story.

    • What you say makes no sense, Charles, because the son is 14yo. It seems quite unlikely that he’s an “owner” of the house other than perhaps through inheritance if his mother dies. What you suggest is misdirection. It’s not Mark’s house any more, he has no legal right to be on property without the explicit permission of the property owner, his ex-wife. End of story.

    • Charles, I agree that the children should be made comfortable and have the freedom to spend time with both parents. Mark Sanford should have thought about that when he was off with another woman in Argentina…on FATHER’S DAY no less. Do you seriously think that a man who chose to go to another country and sleep with another woman on a day that should have been spent with his children really cares about whether his son watched the second half of the game alone or not?

      And, if I’m not mistaken, the fact that there was going to be a Super Bowl was no secret. If he were concerned about who his son was going to watch the Super Bowl with, he had months to plan and prepare for a special evening with him.

      The man is USING his son to deflect negative scrutiny way from himself. Where was he during the first half of the game? Did his concern for who his son was watching the game with only pop up after half time? Put yourself, as a father, in his situation. Would you have suddenly thought, at the last minute on Super Bowl Sunday that your son needed someone to watch the second half of the game with? It is all bunk from a man who invokes his son’s name by saying children shouldn’t have to be embarrassed.

      This is about a man who agreed to not enter his ex-wives home without permission. There was discussion during the divorce settlement process, he agreed to the conditions, signed the paperwork and then defied it on more than one occasion. It isn’t about his son, it is about him showing her he doesn’t have to do what she requests and using his son as an excuse for his bad behavior.

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