Representative's estranged wife seeks legislative action to hasten divorce

Monday, March 1, 2010 | 7:20 p.m. CST; updated 9:00 p.m. CST, Monday, March 1, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — The estranged wife of a state representative is prepared to use legislative action to ensure a speedy divorce.

The wife of Rep. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville, issued a letter Monday alleging infidelity on the part of her husband and criticizing a state statute that is delaying her divorce. The current statute allows active lawmakers to delay certain court cases during the legislative session.

"(Cunningham's) infidelity has caused much pain and suffering for the two families directly involved and now his use of delay tactics as a member of the Missouri General Assembly has prevented the timely dissolution of our marriage," Neena Cunningham wrote in a letter to House Speaker Ron Richard, R-Joplin. "Many of the victims of Representative Cunningham's actions of infidelity want to move on with their lives, begin a new fresh start and allow for the healing process to complete itself."

Neena Cunningham first filed for divorce from her husband more than a year ago in January 2009. He used state statute to put the divorce proceedings on hold.

Now, Neena Cunningham said she hopes to address the statute in the state legislature. She said she made her struggle public in order to convince a representative to carry the bill.

"Certainly it is my hope that someone will take up the bill," she said in an interview. "I'm waiting by the phone hoping it will go forward."

A spokesperson for Richard, Kristen Blanchard, said the House speaker could not comment on how the situation will be addressed by the legislature.

"We're looking at a situation that is strictly between Rep. Cunningham and his estranged wife," Blanchard said. "From our point of view, it's going to stay a matter between those two parties and the parties directly involved, and we don't comment on these sorts of matters."

Mike Cunningham was unavailable for comment. He told the Associated Press he did not have time for a trial due to his responsibilities in Jefferson City.

Mike Cunningham also told the Associated Press that his wife had an affair, which Neena Cunningham denied.

In a packet distributed to the press, Neena Cunningham included a copy of an article detailing the highly publicized divorce of Jenny Sanford from her husband, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

Neena Cunningham said she felt the article was important because it showed "how quickly it is possible to get a divorce."

"I'm struggling because I can't get mine heard," she said.

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