Tensions have been high between Jesse Williams and his ex-wife Aryn Drake-Lee in the years following their divorce.
After meeting in New York City while the Grey’s Anatomy alum was working as a schoolteacher, the couple tied the knot in September 2012. “She’s been with me through all different facets of my career,” Williams told USA Today about Drake-Lee in 2010. “She’s stuck with me through thick and thick and thick and thin. We know each other in and out.” They welcomed daughter Sadie in January 2014 and son Maceo in August 2015.
The Little Fires Everywhere alum filed for divorce in April 2017, and their split quickly became contentious. In June of that year, Williams claimed that Drake-Lee had rejected his request to spend more time with the kids.
“Aryn restricts my time with the children and decides when, and for how long I may have them,” Williams alleged in court documents obtained by Us Weekly at the time. “She has rejected, without any reason, each and every request I have made to have the children sleepover at my residence.”
The filing continued: “On the few days that I have the children, Aryn has insisted that my time with the children be limited during the week to approximately two-and-a-half hours per day, despite my requests for more time, including overnights with the children.”
The real estate agent’s lawyer Jill Hersh responded in a statement to Us, arguing that Drake-Lee’s priority was “protecting the privacy and well-being of their children. … It is unfortunate that Mr. Williams has chosen to draw public attention to this difficult time and transition for their family.”
In August 2017, Drake-Lee requested sole legal custody of their children, alleging that Williams had been unfaithful. The actor’s rep denied the allegations in a statement to Us at the time, arguing that “these are matters for the court to decide.”
“Jesse has been working tirelessly to maintain his bond with their children and it is important to note that the dramatizations made in Aryn’s declaration are a one-sided account made with a specific goal in mind,” the statement continued.
The pair’s divorce was finalized in October 2020, after three years of legal battles. In court documents obtained by Us at the time, the pair agreed to share joint legal and physical custody of their children and their assets were divided between them. Still, the pair continued to argue over the amount of time they spend with Sadie and Maceo.
Following the split, Williams was linked to Friday Night Lights alum Minka Kelly, New York City sports anchor Taylor Rooks and Zola actress Taylour Page.
Keep scrolling to learn more about Williams and Drake-Lee’s contentious divorce:
The Cabin in the Woods actor filed for divorce 18 months after the couple welcomed their son, Maceo. At the time, Us reported that he and Drake-Lee had made an amicable decision to part ways, although the reason for their split was not reported at the time. The divorce was finalized three years later, in October 2020.
The Fight For Joint Custody
Just a few months after calling it quits, the pair began arguing over custody of their two children, with Williams alleging that Drake-Lee was restricting his access to them. In response, his then-estranged wife filed for sole physical and legal custody, citing Williams’ unpredictable work schedule, and claiming that she was the primary parental figure.
“Jesse would ‘join in’ when he was available and home, but he rarely took care of the children without my or [the nanny] Martiza’s help and presence,” Drake-Lee alleged in court documents obtained by Us in August 2017. “Jesse became distant, secretive and was home less and less, traveling for unexplained reasons while telling the kids, ‘Daddy is at work.’ … Another factor in their stability is to prevent the children from seeing a revolving door of intimate partners.” Williams’ rep denied the allegations, claiming that he has been “working tirelessly to maintain his bond” with Sadie and Maceo.
The Cheating Rumors
The Station 19 actor addressed the rumors that he had been unfaithful while appearing in Jay-Z’s “Footnotes” segment for the rapper’s track track “4:44″ in July 2017. “I was in a relationship 13 years, 13 real years, not five years, not seven years, 13 years,” Williams said in the video, though he didn’t refer to his ex by name, “and all of a sudden motherf–kers are writing think-pieces that I somehow threw a 13-year relationship — like the most painful experience I’ve had in my life, like with a person I’ve loved with all of my heart — that I threw a person and my family in the trash because a girl I work with is cute.”
The $100,000 A Month Child Support
In addition to fighting over custody, the pair also fought over their finances. In July 2018, Williams was ordered to pay more than $100,000 a month in child and spousal support to Drake-Lee. The following year, she requested that Williams pay a total of $200,000 to cover her legal fees and to pay a forensic accountant who she hired to look over her finances ahead of trial. When their divorce was finalized, Williams’ child support was reduced to $40,000 per month, with the agreement that he was no longer responsible for paying spousal support.
Courtesy Aryn Drake-Lee/Instagram
The Parenting Classes
Amid their divorce drama — and their contentious co-parenting relationship — the duo was ordered to participate in a program for “high conflict parents” in March 2021. The six-session online course helps separated couples learn conflict resolution skills to ease tension after divorce.
The Allegations of ‘Erratic’ Behavior
The custody battle continued in February 2022, when Williams accused his ex-wife of “repeated violation of court orders” and “erratic, gatekeeping behavior” in legal documents obtained by Us. He continued by claiming that Drake-Lee had “become increasingly controlling and restrictive” of his time with their children and alleged that she had “manic outbursts” in from of the children. Williams also claimed that Drake-Lee screamed at him and “yanked Sadie from my arms like a rag doll” in October 2021.
Courtesy Aryn Drake-Lee/Instagram
A temporary custody agreement was reached in February 2022, when a judge denied Drake-Lee’s request to reduce Williams’ visitation with the kids as he prepares to star in the Broadway production of Take Me Out from March to June 2022. In addition, the agreement also gives the Chicago native “tie-breaking authority” over COVID-19-related decisions for the kids for the rest of the year and declared that he could not cancel his scheduled visits with the children at his discretion.
Child Support Payments Request
In March 2022, Williams requested to reduce his $40,000 monthly child support payments since he no longer has the same salary as he did during Grey’s Anatomy.
According to the legal docs, the actor noted that he makes “far less” now that he is only appearing in the Broadway play Take Me Out. His paycheck comes out to $1,668 per week, which is a huge difference from his previous salary on the ABC series.
The Reduced Child Support
In April 2022, a court ruled that Williams would no longer have to pay $40,000 a month in child support due to his “significant reduction in income” after leaving Grey’s Anatomy. Per Entertainment Tonight, the Broadway actor will instead be required to pay Drake-Lee $6,413 a month, with half due on the first of the month and the remainder due on the 15th. The ruling goes into effect on April 15 and will require another court order to change.