Joe Exotic's Estranged Husband Dillon Passage Speaks Out amid Divorce, Hits Back at 'False' Claims

·5 min read
Dillon Passage, Tiger King
Dillon Passage, Tiger King

Dillon Passage/Instagram; NETFLIX

Dillon Passage is speaking his truth amid his ongoing divorce from Tiger King star, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a. "Joe Exotic".

On Monday, Dillon's attorneys, Chris Kirker and Holly Davis of Kirker Davis LLP, released a statement and disputed claims that were made by Joe in last week's divorce filing.

According to documents previously obtained by PEOPLE, Joe's lawyer claimed that while the couple did break up last year, Dillon, 25, allegedly "failed to serve his husband and did not follow through with obtaining a divorce through the legal system." Joe, 59, then allegedly tried contacting Dillon multiple times to no avail, per his lawyers.

However, Dillon's lawyers claim the divorce unfolded quite differently, arguing that Joe is "well known for stretching the truth for personal gain, so we are unsurprised to find him doing the same in his divorce case against our client."

"Despite Joe's false claim that Dillon did not attempt to obtain a divorce through legal means, the Kirker Davis Law Firm presented a full and comprehensive settlement agreement to Joe's lawyer, Francisco Hernandez, on September 3, 2021," Kirker and Davis said in their statement. "On September 8, 2021, at 4:59 p.m. CST, our office received an email from Joe that said, 'It will be a cold day in hell before I sign these papers' and 'Your out of your f—n mind' (sic)."

"Given this response and Joe's revelation shortly after that date that he was fighting cancer, Dillon paused pursuing litigation out of respect for Joe's health crisis," Kirker and Davis continued. "Our firm always urges clients to take the high road, and we applauded his compassionate decision. But Dillon now feels compelled to counter the untrue statements that Joe is making publicly."

"Dillon is eager to efficiently finalize the divorce agreement he proposed in September of 2021," the lawyers added.

In a statement to PEOPLE, an attorney for Joe, said, "We still have heard nothing from his lawyers or Mr. Passage, but I'm glad he's ready to move forward. My office number is on the pleadings, let's roll!" adding: "A legal case was never and therefore no legal remedy was actually pursued by Mr. Passage."

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

Dillon Passage Joe Exotic
Dillon Passage Joe Exotic

Joe Exotic Instagram Dillon Passage and Joe Exotic

After four years of marriage, Joe filed for divorce from Dillon on Thursday in Santa Rosa County, Florida.

In the documents previously obtained by PEOPLE, Joe said his marriage is "irretrievably broken" and requested alimony. Additionally, he asked to remove Dillon's surname from his legal name, and said he hopes "they can both move on with their lives and divorce quickly and amicably."

His lawyer, Autumn Beck Blackledge, told PEOPLE in a statement at the time, "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. 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."

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Dillon Passage, Joe Exotic
Dillon Passage, Joe Exotic

Dillon Passage/Instagram Dillon Passage and Joe Exotic

Passage's manager, Jeff Duncan, previously told 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."

The following day, Blackledge issued a follow-up statement, in which she disclosed that Joe wants to end his marriage to Dillon "because he desires to marry his new love interest, Mr. John Graham whom he met in prison." Blackledge added that Graham "has recently been released from prison and is not taking interview requests or making comments at this time."

Joe also expressed his excitement to move forward with his divorce so he can be with Graham. "God works in amazing ways," he said in the statement.

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

Two years into the pair's marriage, Joe was convicted of orchestrating a murder-for-hire scheme to kill his rival Carole Baskin. He was recently resentenced to 21 years in prison for the charge.

Dillon initially stood by Joe's side amid his prison stint, even telling PEOPLE in June 2020 that their new "normal" was something he had "kind of gotten used to." But Dillon announced in March 2021 that the two were "seeking a divorce"

RELATED: Tiger King's Joe Exotic Wants to Marry 'New Love Interest' He Met in Prison After Divorce Filing

"This wasn't an easy decision to make but Joe and I both understand that this situation isn't fair to either of us," he wrote on Instagram. "It's something that neither of us were expecting but we are going to take it day by day."

Added Dillon, "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."

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