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First lady files for divorce, cites adultery in Family Court filing

One day after Gov. Mark Sanford said he hoped to reconcile with his estranged wife, first lady Jenny Sanford announced she has filed for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

"This came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation," Jenny Sanford, 47, said in a short statement released Friday. "Yet I am still dedicated to keeping the process that lies ahead peaceful for our family."

She expressed her thanks to people from around the nation who have offered her words of encouragement and prayers.

"Please know the boys and I are doing well and are blessed with the incredible support of friends and family and bolstered by our faith and the unfailing love of our God above," she wrote.

Gov. Sanford, 49, who lives in the Governor's Mansion while his wife and sons live in a beachfront home on Sullivan's Island, offered praise for his wife Friday and acceptance of what's to come.

"While it is not the course I would have hoped for, or would choose, I want to take full responsibility for the moral failure that led us to this tragic point," said Mark Sanford, who in June admitted to a yearlong romantic relationship with an Argentine woman he has called his "soul mate."

The governor has also admitted to "crossing the line" with other unnamed women during his 20-year marriage.

"Jenny is a great person, and has been a remarkable wife, mother and first lady," Gov.Sanford said in his statement. "While our family structure may change, I know that we will both work earnestly to be the best mom and dad we can be to four of the finest boys on earth."

It's not clear how the divorce will impact Jenny Sanford's duties as first lady. Her husband's term expires in January 2011.

During their separation, she has made a handful of public appearances, including shaking hands and posing for pictures at the annual holiday open house at the Governor's Mansion earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Gov. Sanford, the first sitting S.C. governor to go through a divorce, has been trying to hang on to his office.

He got some welcome news this week when a panel of House lawmakers recommended he be censured for secretly leaving the state for five days in June to see his lover, Maria Belen Chapur. The panel rejected an impeachment resolution seeking his removal from office.

He still faces 37 possible violations of state ethics law for misuse of state aircraft and campaign money.

The governor has paid the state back $3,300 for the Argentine leg of a 2008 economic development trip during which he saw Chapur.

After a Cabinet meeting Thursday, the governor told reporters he was no longer in contact with Chapur and hoped to reconcile with his wife.

The divorce papers, filed Friday in Charleston County Family Court, do not mention money or custody arrangements for the couple's sons, who range in age from 11 to 17.

"The defendant has engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman other than the plaintiff," the complaint reads. "Plaintiff has not condoned that relationship and is informed and believes that she is entitled to a divorce ... from the defendant on the grounds of adultery."

In an interview this week with ABC News' Barbara Walters, Jenny Sanford said she has forgiven her husband for his transgressions, but won't forget. She also said the marriage faced significant hurdles.

The first lady said she learned of her husband's infidelity in January after discovering a letter on his desk he wrote to Chapur.

When school ended, she asked her husband to move out and steer clear of her, the couple's four sons and the other woman for a month.

"What people didn't know was that I had asked Mark to leave ... without permission to see his woman in Argentina or to see her anywhere, and he was to have no contact with the boys or myself for 30 days. And my hope was that he would wake up from whatever he was in the throes of and maybe see what he might lose," Jenny Sanford said in the interview with Walters.

Instead, Mark Sanford flew to Argentina to visit Chapur, misleading his staff and the public into believing he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

There were attempts at reconciliation in the late summer: a family trip to Europe and a couple-only trip, but to no avail.

Kermit King, a Columbia attorney who does not represent either of the Sanfords, said state law allows divorce on one of five grounds - adultery, physical cruelty, habitual drunkenness, desertion for a period of a year, and a "no fault" ground that requires the two parties have lived apart for more than one year.

Next, the Sanfords must agree on alimony payments, child support, a visitation schedule for the children, and how to divide any joint property.

"I would be very surprised if she asked for alimony," King said of Jenny Sanford, whose wealth can be attributed, at least in part, to her grandfather, who founded the Skil Corp., a power tool manufacturer.

Georgetown-educated Jenny Sanford is penning a memoir about the scandal.

An Illinois native, Jenny Sanford previously worked as a Wall Street vice president. She met Mark Sanford in the 1980s while he was working at investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and has been instrumental in running his campaigns for congress and governor.

Marjory Wentworth, a friend of Jenny Sanford and S.C. poet laureate, would not comment specifically on the divorce Friday but said the first lady remains strong.

"Anyone who knows her would say of course she's the kind of person who would show lots of dignity and grace under this kind of fire," Wentworth said.

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