Tiger King star Joe Exotic's divorce from husband Dillon Passage is on hold, his lawyer said Saturday. Passage, 25, announced plans to separate from Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, in an Instagram post on Friday, following recent public comments Maldonado-Passage made on Instagram that was critical of Passage. Maldonado-Passage, 58, is serving a 22-year federal sentence after he was convicted on federal animal abuse and attempted murder for hire charges.
Moldonado-Passage's lawyer, Franciso Hernandez, told Us Weekly the couple decided to "stay married right now so things don't get complicated." The lawyer added, "I am so glad that they are working things through. They need each other and they’re much stronger together than apart." Hernandez also told TMZ that Moldonado-Passage spoke with Passage on the phone. The former zoo owner sent Hernandez an email, in which he said the two decided to put the divorce on hold.
"Me and Dillon have talked and we are not going to get in a hurry and get a legal divorce," Maldonado-Passage wrote in the email to Hernandez. "This has been tough on both of us and he is going to do what he thinks he needs to do and I prefer to stay married right now so things don't get complicated and if I live through this great we will figure it out then." Mandlonado-Passage noted that Passage still "answers the phone three times a day and will continue yo be my support."
On Thursday, Maldonado-Passage hinted at troubles between himself and Passage in an Instagram post. The next day, Passage responded by confirming speculation that the two planned to get a divorce. "This wasn’t an easy decision to make but Joe and I both understand that this situation isn’t fair to either of us," Passage wrote at the time. "It’s something that neither of us was expecting but we are going to take it day by day. We are on good terms still and I hope it can stay that way. I will continue to have Joe in my life and do my best to support him while he undergoes further legal battles to better his situation."
Maldonado-Passage and Passage married in December 2017, two months after Maldonado-Passage's husband Travis Maldonado shot and killed himself in an accident. In 2019, Maldonado-Passage was convicted on 17 charges of animal abuse and two counts of attempted murder-for-hire because he allegedly hired a hitman to kill his rival, Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin. The Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness star spent most of 2020 trying to secure his release, even asking President Donald Trump for a pardon, which never came before Trump left office. He recently hired new attorneys in another attempt to get a new trial. He has also written a memoir that will be published in November.