First Congressional District candidate Mark Sanford said Wednesday he was watching the Super Bowl with his son at his ex-wife's home, an event that prompted her to file a trespassing charge.
Former first lady Jenny Sanford said the incident was part of a "pattern of entering" her home and a violation of the couple's divorce agreement, according to The Associated Press.
The former first lady confronted her ex-husband leaving her Sullivan's Island home on Feb. 3, using his cellphone for a flashlight, according to documents obtained by the AP. Her attorney filed a complaint the next day.
The couple's divorce settlement says neither can enter the other's home without permission.
The dustup made ripples through the national political scene Wednesday, with a national Republican group pulling its support for Sanford's campaign and a national Democratic one launching a six-figure media campaign attacking him.
"It's an unfortunate reality that divorced couples sometimes have disagreements that spill over into family court," said a statement released by Sanford's campaign Wednesday. "I did indeed watch the second half of the Super Bowl at the (Sullivan's Island) beach house with our 14-year-old son because as a father I didn't think he should watch it alone.
"Given she (Jenny Sanford) was out of town, I tried to reach her beforehand to tell her of the situation that had arisen and met her at the back steps under the light of my cellphone when she returned and told her what had happened. There is always another side to every story, and while I am particularly curious how records that were sealed to avoid the boys dealing with embarrassment are now somehow exposed less than three weeks before this election, I agree with Jenny that the media is no place to debate what is ultimately a family court matter, and out of respect for Jenny and the boys, I'm not going to have any further comment at this time."
A two-term governor from 2003-11, Sanford must appear in court to answer the complaint, two days after the May 7 special election to fill the vacant congressional seat, according to the AP.
Jenny Sanford has previously warned him about coming to her home, including having her attorney send a letter to him and police, according to documents obtained by the AP.
Court documents show Jenny Sanford has previously accused Sanford of violating the terms of their divorce agreement.
She filed a complaint in December 2011 accusing Sanford of failing to pay his annual $5,000 payment for one of their son's college education. The issue since has been resolved, according to what the former first lady told the AP.
Jenny Sanford also asserts in court papers that her ex-husband violated their divorce agreement Jan. 15, 2011, while the couple's children were at Coosaw Plantation, the northern Beaufort County family home of Mark Sanford.
Jenny Sanford's attorney, Deena McRackan, said Wednesday she cannot provide details of that complaint.
Although Mark Sanford downplayed the trespassing charge Wednesday, some national Republicans decided to drop support for his campaign.
"Mark Sanford has proven he knows what it takes to win elections," said Katie Prill, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee that has been helping the Sanford campaign. "At this time, the NRCC will not be engaged in this special election."
In recent weeks, the committee has worked on Sanford's behalf, raising questions about Colbert Busch's contributions from unions, highlighting apparent discrepancies about when she took a leave of absence from her job at Clemson University to start her campaign and accusing her of dodging debates.
The group also released an ad through Vine -- a service that uses 6-second videos to convey messages on Twitter -- linking Colbert Busch to unions.
On Wednesday, Colbert Busch's campaign did not comment on the Sanford trespassing charge and other developments.
But the House Majority PAC, a national group working to win back the U.S. House majority for Democrats, announced a three-week, six-figure media campaign. The group unveiled its first TV ad that hits Sanford for his misuse of the state plane for which he paid a record fine.
Sanford has said the charges were minor. He paid the $70,000 fine, but has maintained that, had he chosen to fight the charges, they would have been dropped.
Sanford is attempting to resurrect his political career after he secretly left the state to have an extramarital affair with an Argentinean woman, Maria Belen Chapur.
He survived an impeachment attempt, but his marriage did not.
Sanford is now engaged to Chapur.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Wednesday that tensions between the Sanfords rose after Chapur attended Mark Sanford's April 2 GOP runoff victory party. Two of Sanford's sons, with Jenny Sanford, also were at that party. The Post reported that Jenny Sanford texted it, saying, in part, "both boys were quite upset and visibly so."
Mark Sanford sent an email to supporters Wednesday afternoon, saying, "It has been a rough 24 hours" and that "divorce is tragic at many levels.'"
He included his phone number for people to call him if they have any questions.
"I think I need to stay focused on the verse a friend gave me last night: 'God did not give us spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind,'" the former governor wrote. "I hope to apply those concepts over these last two weeks of the race and while political opponents will use this to distract from issues that matter to Lowcountry voters, we know what we have to do to win. Quite simply to continue to get our message out about limiting government and empowering people. At the end of the day cutting taxes, debts and deficits and strengthening the marketplace leads to jobs so important to people here on the coast."
The Washington Post contributed to this report.
Follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.