'Tiger King' 's Joe Exotic Files for Divorce from Husband Dillon Passage 1 Year After Their Split

Dillon Passage and Joe Exotic, who wed in December 2017, announced their split in March 2021 as the latter was serving his ongoing prison sentence

Joe Exotic and Dillon Passage
Dillon Passage and Joseph Maldonado-Passage. Photo: Joe Exotic/Instagram

Joseph Maldonado-Passage aka "Joe Exotic" is officially taking steps to end his marriage to Dillon Passage.

A year after Passage announced that they had split, Maldonado-Passage filed for divorce from behind bars on Thursday, his lawyer, Autumn Beck Blackledge, confirms to PEOPLE.

Maldonado-Passage, 59, filed in Santa Rosa County, Florida, where he and Passage, 25, last lived together as a married couple and near where Passage currently resides.

Blackledge noted that while the pair did split last year, Passage allegedly "failed to serve his husband and did not follow through with obtaining a divorce through the legal system." Since then, Maldonado-Passage has allegedly attempted to contact Passage multiple times with no luck and is now hoping "they can both move on with their lives and divorce quickly and amicably," according to Blackledge.

"Joe is nearing the end of his cancer treatment and has fallen in love. He has no ill will toward Dillon, but has been trying for a while to reach him to get a divorce settlement," Blackledge tells PEOPLE in a statement. "My understanding is that both Joe and Dillion have moved on romantically and they should both have the freedom to love again free from the bonds of marriage."

Passage's manager, Jeff Duncan, tells PEOPLE in a statement: "Dillon is pleased to get some finality to the divorce. Previously, his attorneys drafted the necessary paperwork on two separate occasions which were not signed by and then ignored by Joe. Dillon is happy to get some closure and welcomes progress toward his request for divorce to Joseph Maldonado."

According to the documents, Maldonado-Passage called their four-year marriage "irretrievably broken" and is requesting alimony in the divorce.

The Tiger King star, who was recently resentenced to 21 years in prison on a murder-for-hire charge, is also requesting to drop Passage's last name from his legal name.

TMZ was the first to report the news.

Dillon Passage, Joe Exotic
Dillon Passage and Joe Exotic. Dillon Passage/Instagram

The world learned of the pair's relationship through Netflix's series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, which premiered its first season in 2020. The series provided a closer look at the underground world of big cat breeding, namely Maldonado-Passage's own narrative, and his ongoing feud with Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist and CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

In December 2017, Passage and Maldonado-Passage tied the knot. But just over two years later, Maldonado-Passage was convicted of trying to hire two different men to kill Baskin.

The former zookeeper was initially sentenced to 22 years in an Oklahoma prison, but it was recently changed by a federal judge in January to 21 years amid his battle with prostate cancer.

Though Passage was initially supportive of Maldonado-Passage, telling PEOPLE in June 2020 that they had "kind of gotten used to our situation," he eventually announced their split in March 2021.

In his Instagram post, Passage wrote, "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."

RELATED VIDEO: Joe Exotic Transferred to North Carolina Medical Facility After 'Aggressive Cancer' Diagnosis

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Passage continued, "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."

Passage has since moved on, debuting his new relationship with boyfriend John on Instagram in July 2021.

"Everyone, meet John 👋 I've planned on keeping my relationship private for personal reasons but lately I've been having a hard time dealing with things happening in my life and John has been my rock and helping me get through it all," he wrote at the time. "In short, this is an appreciation post for this special special man. Thank you for being you ❤️."

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