May 11, 2012 -- Reese Witherspoon's mother is suing her husband, the Oscar-winning actress' father, for bigamy, saying that he took part in an illegal marriage that she learned about from the local newspaper.
Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Witherspoon and John Witherspoon, 70, have been married for 42 years, so the actress' mother said she was surprised to see a wedding announcement saying her husband had married a woman named Tricianne Taylor in an "intimate doubled-ringed ceremony" at a "private chalet," with the bride in a "full-length formal ivory satin gown" and the groom in a "white linen suit."
Reese Witherspoon, who is pregnant with her first child with new husband Jim Toth, hasn't spoken publicly about her family's drama, but court documents filed by her mother have revealed the allegations' intimate details.
Mary Witherspoon, a retired nurse, said she and her doctor husband have "lived in separate houses in the Nashville area since 1996," because of her husband's "alcoholism, overspending, infidelity and hoarding."
In the documents, Witherspoon says, "I love my husband and do not want a divorce."
She says that when she asked John about his marriage, he claimed to have no idea who Tricianne Taylor was, although the affidavit also says John had tried to bring Taylor to Reese's wedding last year, but the woman was turned away because she was not on the guest list.
The documents make clear that Mary Witherspoon fears Taylor, 60, a twice-divorced former salon owner, is taking advantage of her husband, who Mary says might be suffering from early-onset dementia.
In the affidavit, Mary Witherspoon says she's worried Taylor has tried to take out bank loans under the name Mrs. John Witherspoon, and even says, "I fear for my husband's safety ... he could easily die through lack of medicine ... or some other malicious act."
Both parties have failed to respond to a request for comments.
"This is obviously a very difficult situation and for someone who's as private as Reese Witherspoon," Charlotte Triggs, staff writer at People magazine, said. "It's really a stressful time for her."
Mary Witherspoon's case goes to court in three weeks. According to their wedding announcement, John Witherspoon and Tricianne Taylor are supposed to have a wedding celebration this summer in Nashville.