Inside Jesse Williams' Public Battle to Privately Parent

Look back on the Grey’s Anatomy star's custody battle with his ex-wife

By Elyse Dupre Aug 05, 2018 10:00 AMTags
Jesse Williams, Aryn Drake-Lee John Shearer/Getty Images

Jesse Williams turned 37 years old on Sunday and said goodbye to a year full of drama surrounding his custody and child support battle with ex-wife Aryn Drake-Lee.

Williams and Drake-Lee filed for divorce in April 2017 after nearly five years of marriage. The split resulted in a headline-making custody dispute over their two children: Maceo (3) and Sadie (4).

In June of that year, Williams requested a court order for joint physical and legal custody of their children. He alleged his former spouse restricted his time with his kids and rejected requests to have them spend the night at his residence. 

Drake-Lee shot down Williams' request in August and filed for sole legal and physical custody. According to the court documents, the mother of two claimed Williams had been "relentless and bullying" with his requests for parenting time, leading her to ask that their communications be made through counsel. She also accused him of making "last minute" changes to his scheduled visits and disrupting the children's routine.

In addition to asking for sole custody, she made several parenting procedure requests, including that the two do not publicly post pictures of their kids without written consent and that neither parent introduce a new "intimate partner until the relationship has endured at least six months." Williams had reportedly started dating Minka Kelly that summer.

Later that month, Williams fired back by objecting to several allegations in her declaration. Drake-Lee filed her own objections in response.

"It's getting more messy then Jesse ever wanted," an insider told E! News at the time. "His ex feels betrayed by Jesse that's what she keeps on expressing. Jesse wanted to work this out very civilly but it's turning out not to go in that direction. Jesse is a great dad and his kids are number one. He is extremely upset about this."

Jesse Williams Ordered to Pay $50,000 a Month in Child Support
Stefanie Keenan/WireImage

In September 2017, a judge ruled that Williams and Drake-Lee would share joint legal custody of their children. The parents also reached a temporary support agreement later that month. Williams agreed to pay his ex $160,000—$100,000 of which served as an advance towards spousal support for Drake-Lee , as well as child support for their kids. The other $60,000 served as an advance toward her attorney fees. 

However, Williams soon found himself paying even more money. In January 2018, a judge ordered the actor to pay his ex over $50,000 per month in spousal support. In addition, it was determined that Drake-Lee  would receive half of the residuals Williams earned from September 2012 to April 2017 (the span of their marriage). He was also held responsible for paying $50,000 in her attorney and accounting fees. As for Drake-Lee , she was held responsible for maintaining payments on the family's residence, including mortgage, property taxes and home equity line.

Things continued to get ugly when Drake-Lee accused Williams of violating terms of their custody agreement. Williams filed objections to these claims and alleged Drake-Lee was trying to "marginalize" him as a parent, as well as "minimize" and "micromanage" his time with his children.

Despite all of this, there was a bit of happy news for Williams that year. He was awarded joint physical custody that March. But the former couple's problems didn't end there. 

In June, Williams claimed his ex-wife's request for guideline and retroactive child support should be denied, requesting that any child support be based on their children's needs. In court documents, the Jackson Avery star claimed his former spouse "exaggerates many of our expenses and the children's needs, while also lumping her personal expenses as expenses for the children." 

Later that month, the court ordered Williams to pay about $50,000 in child support every month, arguing that his $521,000 a month income was "extraordinarily high."

Still, Williams is trying to get this changed. In July, the actor submitted a 121-page declaration asking the court for a new trial to modify the child support. Drake-Lee responded to the filing in August and argued a new trial should not happen.

Nevertheless, it looks like Williams is trying to move forward with his life. In July, The Blast, citing court documents, reported Williams "intends to purchase a new residence located in Los Angeles." He has also been reportedly romantically linked to sports reporter Taylor Rooks.

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