Divorce finalized for Alabama governor, former first lady

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2015 9:04 PM
Divorce finalized for Alabama governor, former first lady

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A judge on Tuesday signed a divorce decree for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and former first lady Dianne Bentley, quietly concluding the couple's 50-year marriage.

Tuscaloosa Family Court Judge Philip Lisenby signed the decree a day after the Bentleys submitted an agreement to divide their financial assets and a month after Dianne Bentley filed for divorce saying their marriage had suffered an "irretrievable breakdown."

Dianne Bentley told the judge in a sworn statement unsealed Tuesday that the couple, both 72, had become incompatible, citing a difference in their preferred lifestyle.

"During my marriage to my husband our likes, dislikes and lifestyles have become so different that it has caused discord and arguments in our home. We have become incompatible and our differences cannot be resolved," Dianne Bentley said in the sworn testimony.

"I know that we cannot live together again and that our separation is now permanent. I feel that a divorce is in the best interest of both us and our family," she said.

The court record did little to shed light on the specific differences that led to the marriage's disintegration, but indicated that the governor disagreed with the contention that the marriage was beyond repair. The governor submitted a brief court response saying he agreed with some statements, such as that they have adult children, and the location of their residences.

"Defendant denies each and every other allegation contained in said complaint," Bentley wrote.

However, the governor did not fight the divorce proceeding.

The couple on Monday jointly submitted an agreement dividing their financial assets accumulated over their marriage and Bentley's career as a dermatologist.

Dianne Bentley will have possession of the couple's two beach homes. The former first lady can reside at the couple's Tuscaloosa home until the end of 2017, but Bentley will have title to the property. The governor will retain possession of the property that belonged to his family in Shelby County.

Dianne Bentley will get ownership of the couple's Fidelity investment account and half of the governor's Individual Retirement Account.

The agreement, like most divorces, spells out the minute details of dividing possessions. The former first lady will keep her jewelry and most household furnishings. The governor will keep his University of Alabama football tickets and all memorabilia from his time as governor.

"The last four weeks have been a very difficult time for my family and for our state. The people of Alabama have prayed for us and have encouraged us. For that, I am extremely grateful," Gov. Bentley said in a statement issued Monday after the divorce agreement was filed.

A judge had initially sealed the divorce case at the request of couple, but multiple news media outlets filed a motion to have the case made public. Lisenby unsealed the sparse record on Tuesday at the couple's request.

When Bentley, a legislator from Tuscaloosa, launched what was then a longshot bid for governor in 2010, his wife said at the time she was not excited at the prospect of being a politician's wife but grew to love visiting the state's small towns.

"I'm just a very shy person. I'm not comfortable out with people and crowds," she said in an interview.

The governor has said he had felt tired and "dying" as his medical career wound down, but felt a renewed purpose and energy with his election in 2010.

"I believe in my heart I was placed here to do a job," Bentley told his Cabinet last month.

While the divorce filing said the Bentleys had been separated since January, the couple continued to travel together and made appearances at public events, according to public records.

Dianne Bentley signed the divorce papers Aug. 26. On Aug. 28, the smiling couple made a joint appearance with college mascots at the Governor's Mansion less than an hour after the divorce papers were stamped as filed.

The couple met at the University of Alabama, when Bentley, a dermatologist, was in his first year of medical school. Dianne Bentley said during campaign interviews that she worked in medical labs for $325 a month to help put him through medical school. They have four adult sons, seven granddaughters and one grandson.

The Bentleys marked their 50th wedding anniversary in July. The first couple, or their public relations staff, traded anniversary wishes via their official social media accounts, and the governor tweeted a photo from their wedding.

"Today @FirstLadyDB and I celebrate another wonderful year of marriage. Happy Anniversary Dianne!" the governor wrote.

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Associated Press Writer Jay Reeves in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed to this report.