The couple claimed this month “there was never an intent to adopt" Oher, who recently claimed he was misled and told he was adopted
In their 2010 book reflecting on their life story that inspired the Oscar-winning film The Blind Side, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy make dozens of references to adopting Michael Oher despite claiming in a recent legal filing there was “never an intent to adopt” him.
Oher, now 39, was in fact placed into a conservatorship that gave Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, both 63, the power to control his medical and financial decisions when he was 18.
The retired NFL star filed a petition last month demanding he be released from the conservatorship, which he alleges he only found out about in February — a discovery his attorney says “devastated” Oher and “wounded him deeply.” Oher said the couple misled him to believe the arrangement was a form of adoption.
In a response to Oher’s legal petition, the Tuohys claimed they “are ready, willing, and able” to end his conservatorship and said they never acted on the power to control his finances, while also admitting they never filed an accounting of his money to the state over the last two decades, as required under a conservatorship.
In the filing, obtained by PEOPLE, the Tuohys admit they have called Oher their son “in the colloquial sense and they have never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication.”
"In fact, they have always felt that the Petitioner was like a son and have used that on occasion but not in a legal sense," the Memphis area couples states.
“There was never an intent to adopt him,” the Tuohys say in their legal response filed earlier this month, denying Oher’s claim that referring to him as a family member had caused “any irreparable harm” to him.
However, in their 2010 book, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving, the Tuohys and their co-author Sally Jenkins explicitly frame their relationship with Oher as an adopted son.
The words “adopt” and “adoption” appear 35 times throughout the book, while the words “conservator” and “conservatorship” are not written once. The word “guardians,” however, does appear. Their biological daughter, Collins Tuohy, also writes in the book that it was her understanding the family was “adopting” Oher.
In chapters attributed to Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the couple writes that “the biggest event for all of us that spring  was our adoption of Michael.”
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“Actually, this was just a formality, the legal completion of an emotional process that had started long before,” Sean and Leigh Anne write. “In our hearts and our minds, Michael was now our third child. We’d already put him on our insurance policies, added him to the trust funds, and written him into our will.”
A representative for the Tuohys told PEOPLE the couple declined to comment on the book, their past claims of having “adopted” Oher and whether he was ever added to their wills, insurance policies and trust funds. A spokesperson for Oher had no additional comment at this time, and referred PEOPLE to their response to the Tuohys' filing last week, saying they "look forward to Mike finally getting his day in court, where we are confident that the truth will prevail."
Oher alleged in his filing last month that the Tuohys lied to him about the framework of the legal conservatorship, and that they told him it was simply another word for an adoption. “Michael trusted the Tuohys and signed where they told him to sign,” Oher’s initial August filing says. However, in his own 2011 book, Oher concedes that the Tuohys said they were entering into a conservatorship, but adds that they portrayed it as equivalent to an adoption.
The 2004 conservatorship filing, also obtained by PEOPLE, says the Tuohys “have all powers of attorney to act on his behalf” and that Oher “shall not be allowed to enter into any contracts or bind himself without the direct approval of his conservators.”
Oher is asking the Shelby County probate court demand an accounting of his finances to prove the Tuohys never siphoned off money owed to him through his story being used for the 2009 film starring Sandra Bullock. The Tuohys claim they split the profits evenly with Oher and that they never filed such receipts with the state because they were never asked to.
In their 2010 book, the Tuohys recount a scene around the family dinner table during which they recall asking Oher if he’s interested in joining their family legally.
“The idea of adopting Michael came to us quite naturally,” Sean and Leigh Anne write. “One evening we told him that we wanted to formally become his guardians.”
The Tuohys write that “we explained that it would require some paperwork.”
“We told him that his biological mother would have to appear in court to give her consent, but that we felt adopting him would be a good idea.” Oher immediately agreed, according to the Tuohys’ account in the book, saying “I already thought I was part of the family,” to which the Tuohys told him, “You are.”
Later in the chapter, the Tuohys again refer to themselves as Oher’s “adoptive parents.”
The Tuohys write that they included Oher in their family Christmas card that December along with their children, Sean Jr. and Collins.
The couple writes that Leigh Anne would go as far as to say “I personally think I birthed Michael.”
“Eight years ago we didn’t go out looking to adopt a child — a miracle simply hit us in the face and we didn’t run from it,” Sean and Leigh Anne write.
Now, however, the Tuohys are attempting to distance themselves from their once harmonious relationship with Oher, and deny that they owe him anything, saying they even paid taxes on his portion.
The founders of Alcon Entertainment, who produced The Blind Side, said in a statement shared with PEOPLE last month that Oher and the four members of the Tuohy family were collectively paid approximately $767,000 in payments delivered through their talent agency for The Blind Side. They also claimed "the notion that the Tuohys were paid millions of dollars by Alcon to the detriment of Michael Oher is false."
"I know the Tuohys are in pain but I'm sure Michael Oher is very much in pain too," a source close to the situation told PEOPLE last month. "I don't think this is a situation where you have bad people. There's a lot of emotion here."
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