Why Netflix Tiger King Joe Exotic and husband Dillon Passage will stay married despite split

The 58-year-old star, who is serving 22 years in prison, confirmed the marriage had ended but has made a dramatic U-turn on divorcing

Netflix Tiger King, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness - Production Stills
(Image credit: Netflix)

Marriages aren't easy at the best of times, let alone when your other half is serving 22 years in prison.

So when Netflix Tiger King star Joe Exotic and Dillon Passage announced they'd split last month, it hardly came as a surprise. But what is unusual, is that despite the break-up, the pair are set to remain married in a dramatic U-turn.

Joe, 58, married Dillon, 22,—who is 36 years his junior – back in 2017 after a whirlwind relationship. The pair started dating after meeting online but after just a short time into their married life, Joe was arrested and went on trial for his many criminal offences. He was found guilty and sentenced to 22 years in prison for the murder-for-hire plot of Carole Baskin and animal abuse charges.

Despite their circumstances, the pair continued to work on their marriage, and Dillon helped spearhead an unsuccessful campaign to get Joe a Presidential pardon from Donald Trump, and often updated fans about him online. But at the end of March, following a scathing message from Joe on Instagram stating that Dillon ‘no longer cared about him’, Dillon announced on Instagram that he and Joe were "seeking a divorce". And now Joe has said from prison they weren’t planning to make their split official any time soon and that the pair were still very much in contact. 

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"You know, I talk to Dillon three times a day on the telephone, and we love each other very much," he told Entertainment Tonight.  "He has been out there alone for two and half years because the first six months he lived in a car because we lost our house."  

The Netflix Tiger King star continued, "The guy has been through hell and he has stood by my side the entire time and we were talking about a divorce a few weeks ago so he could move on and we talked about it some more and we decided to stay married."

The docuseries star has been married four times but he actually tied the knot to five different men over the course of his life. But in detailing the reasons for the latest marriage breakdown, part of husband Dillon's lengthy post read, 'To answer the main question the public wants to know, yes, Joe and I are seeking 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. It’s something that neither of us were 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.'

While Dillon is yet to respond to Joe's claims that they are saving their marriage, Joe—who says he is suffering from ill-health in jail in Fort Worth Texas—admits he would understand if Dillon 'didn’t hang on’ for him, and added, ‘If he needs to move on I have to respect that.' 

The courts found Netflix Tiger King star guilty of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for tampering and falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act for killing tigers and his is only towards the beginning of serving his 22-year sentence.

Selina Maycock

Selina is a Senior Entertainment Writer with more than 15 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She has covered all things Entertainment for GoodtoKnow, Woman&Home and My Imperfect Life. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand.