For more than two decades, Reese Witherspoon had been dealing with a personal nightmare: her Nashville-based parents, Dr. John and Betty Witherspoon, split back in 1996, amid allegations of alcohol abuse and infidelity.
In 2012, John’s problems — and shocking allegations of bigamy — made headlines after Betty filed a lawsuit demanding that his marriage to another woman be annulled (he later claimed he had no recollection of the wedding, and likely never filed their marriage license). Now, as the couple grows older, he and Betty have reunited. “He has moved back in with me,” Betty, 69, recently confirmed to Australian magazine Woman’s Day. “I’m still married. We have been for 48 years.”
Reese with her parents and ex-husband Ryan in 2006 (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
For Reese, the reunion is bittersweet. While the Oscar-winning actress, 41, “completely supports” Betty’s decision to care for the ailing John, the entire two-decade ordeal “is all very heartbreaking for Reese,” an insider tells In Touch. “Does Reese approve of John’s behavior? Of course not. But much to her friends’ and her husband Jim [Toth’s] surprise, she is still very loyal to her father.”
Reese had never given up on her father. Back during the 2012 drama — when Betty revealed in legal papers that John “has at least five motorcycles, at least five boats, and other properties” and that around 2006, “my daughter and I made a decision not to allow my husband to borrow money recklessly” — Reese and her brother, John Jr., petitioned the court for an emergency guardianship of their dad.
And while the records were sealed at the time, the insider says that John’s overspending and hoarding were a serious problem: “Her father blew through a lot of money, Reese’s money mostly.” Nevertheless, adds the insider, “Reese has forgiven him for that. She absolutely pays her parents’ bills now.”
She wants to focus on the good times. John, a former ear, nose, and throat doctor, “is pretty much gone mentally now, and she and her mother have decided to just concentrate on the positive part of what he gave them,” says the insider. “Reese appreciates the humor and sense of play she got from him.”
Now, the Big Little Lies star wants to make sure her children spend plenty of time with him, too. “She goes home to Tennessee quite often with her kids,” the insider says of Ava, 18, and Deacon, 14 (her kids with ex Ryan Phillippe, 43), and five-year-old Tennessee (her son with Jim, 47). “They love her parents.”
With time running out for her dad, Reese certainly isn’t interested in holding any grudges. Says the insider, “Reese has no room for regrets in her life.”