A Timeline Of Jesse Williams And Aryn Drake-Lee's Custody Battle

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee were married for five years after dating for nearly 10. The pair have two children together, and they have spent a lot of the time that has transpired since their initial separation in 2017 arguing about custody arrangements and financial support for their kids. 

Throughout the second half of September 2022, Drake-Lee used Instagram to air out the details of the exes' numerous custody battles. In a post shared on September 17, Drake-Lee offered a timeline of her relationship with Williams that details major events from their time together. Later posts reveal further information that was previously unknown.

Williams and Drake-Lee most recently found themselves back in court in October 2022, when a judge ruled that Williams could have their children visit him in New York while he works and banned the couple from speaking negatively about one another on social media (per Entertainment Tonight). Here is a look at the details of the lengthy custody battle between Aryn Drake-Lee and Jesse Williams.

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee divorced after the birth of their second child

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee married in 2012 after more than five years of dating. They welcomed their oldest child, a daughter, in 2013 and their son in 2015. The pair announced their intention to divorce in April 2017, with the situation described as "amicable" at the time (via PopSugar).

The pair first met when Williams worked as a substitute teacher and Drake-Lee was a real estate broker. In 2010, Williams was open about how Drake-Lee supported him throughout his career development. As he told USA Today, "She's been with me through all different facets of my career. She's stuck with me through thick and thick and thick and thin. We know each other in and out."

The pair never publicly revealed a reason for their divorce, and their court filings indicated the split came down to irreconcilable differences. The outlet The Jasmine Brand broke the story, and a source alleged that the divorce wasn't exactly a surprise to those who knew them. As the source put it, "They're trying to keep their split top secret and away from the public. They've actually been separated for [a while] now."

Aryn Drake-Lee filed for sole custody in August 2017

Despite reports that the pair agreed on their divorce and its terms, Aryn Drake-Lee made an apparent about-face and filed for sole legal custody of their daughter and son in August 2017. Drake-Lee accused her ex-husband of having a work schedule that made seeing his children difficult and that he had a "revolving door" of women in and out of the lives of his kids (via Us Weekly). Drake-Lee added that she was the parent responsible for the bulk of the child care.

In her court filing, Drake-Lee included details that led up to the pair's divorce and claimed, "Jesse became distant, secretive and was home less and less, traveling for unexplained reasons while telling the kids, 'Daddy is at work.' We tried marriage counseling in the fall of 2016, but were unsuccessful. Jesse eventually moved out at the end of March 2017" (per Us Weekly). She took issue with how Jesse Williams defined work and detailed that his work included "trips to Paris, New York, Florida and within California, and activities including giving a graduation speech, attending an awards show, attending a celebrity soccer game in Miami, or doing something undisclosed," according to court documents.

Jesse Williams claimed Aryn Drake-Lee kept him from their kids

Jesse Williams offered a response to Aryn Drake-Lee's request for sole custody, according to court documents obtained by Us Weekly. In that response, he detailed allegations that his ex-wife was deliberately restricting the time he was able to spend with their children. In addition to saying that Drake-Lee refused to allow their children to spend the night at his home, he claimed, "She has rejected, without any reason, each and every request I have made to have the children sleepover at my residence. 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."

At the time, Williams had been dating actor Minka Kelly for several months. However, Drake-Lee appeared to take issue with Williams introducing their children to romantic partners. Her filing stated, "Jesse has shared his time with the children with intimate partner(s)."

Jesse Williams seems to have denied allegations that he cheated on Aryn Drake-Lee

In July 2017, Jesse Williams appeared on Jay-Z's music video for "Footnotes" and seemed to address allegations that he cheated on Aryn Drake-Lee while they were together. Williams made it clear that he did not. He explained, "I was in a relationship 13 years, 13 real years, not five years, not seven years, 13 years, and all of a sudden motherf***ers 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" (via Us Weekly).

At the time, Drake-Lee's lawyer, Jill Hersh, admonished Williams for attempting to pull a private matter into the public. Conversely, the attorney told Us Weekly that keeping their children's private issues out of the media was of utmost importance to Drake-Lee.

Jesse Williams was ordered to pay six figures per month in spousal and child support

In June 2018, Los Angeles Superior Court ordered Jesse Williams to pay Ayrn Drake-Lee $50,695 in spousal support and $50,629 in child support each month, for a total of $101,324 (via Us Weekly). This high amount was based on Williams' income at the time, which was over $500,000 each month. Williams' lawyer had attempted to argue that both the child and spousal support should be wrapped up in the same payment of approximately $50,000 a month, but California law dictates that spousal and child support are separate orders and payments. The order was meant to be temporary until a settlement was finalized between the two. 

Williams also tried to argue that an amount of $11,291 was sufficient for child support, which doesn't include the $7,465 he pays for tuition and the children's health insurance, Entertainment Tonight reported.

Jesse Williams And Aryn Drake-Lee finalized their divorce in 2020

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee finally finalized their divorce several years after the process began. The two reached an agreement in September 2019, and the judge signed off on their divorce in October 2020.

Per Us Weekly, their agreement stipulated that Williams was to pay $40,000 a month in child support and that he was able to keep the nearly $1 million he earned from "Grey's Anatomy" after the couple separated. He was also no longer responsible for spousal support in any capacity, and Drake-Lee was allowed to keep their main home in Los Angeles and two separate homes in New York and Oakland, California. 

The agreement also specified that the parents had to talk to each other before posting pictures of their children on social media. Furthermore, Williams and Drake-Lee were required to take a virtual six-week course for high-conflict co-parents called Between Two Parents, Entertainment Tonight reported.

Jesse Williams accused Aryn Drake-Lee of violating court orders in 2022

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee were back in the news in 2022 when Williams accused his ex-wife of violating court orders. Williams filed documents against his ex-wife in February, in which he claimed she had "become increasingly controlling and restrictive" of the time he could spend with their two children, Us Weekly reported.

He stated that Drake-Lee picked up their children from school and that she removed them from his own front yard on his custodial days. He also included accusations that Drake-Lee displayed "manic outbursts in front of the children" and that she remained stuck in a "perpetual loop of the same disproven, unsupported tales and flagrant disrespect for the court's orders."

Williams' filing came after Drake-Lee submitted documents in December 2021 asking that the pair's custody schedule be changed. Drake-Lee claimed, "[Williams] demonstrated a lack of concern for [stability], often making decisions based on what's most convenient for him at the time, rather than the overall best interest of our children." She also said that her ex's decision to leave "Grey's Anatomy" was causing problems for herself and their children. As Drake-Lee explained, "Since Jesse's exit, there have been multiple instances of Jesse notifying me with very little notice that he will be gone for weeks or months at a time for work and therefore must cancel his custodial time."

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee settled the custody dispute in March 2022

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee settled the custody dispute in March 2022. The result? The two would continue to share custody of both of their children, and Williams would have "tie-breaking authority" when it comes to issues surrounding COVID-19 concerns for their two children. Williams was also allowed to modify the pair's custody agreement to accommodate his time in New York starring in the Broadway play "Take Me Out," according to Entertainment Tonight.

While the judge refused Drake-Lee's request to reduce the time Williams was able to spend with their children, he did agree to a cancellation policy as it pertains to changing the time. The policy stated that if Williams cancels time spent with his children, he will not be able to rescind the cancellation later. The two were also ordered to have a conversation about extracurricular activities that the children engage in, and that Drake-Lee can ultimately make decisions if they cannot agree.

According to court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight, the judge stated, "Mother should appreciate that father cannot share with her certain schedules as far in advance as she would like, and that he may not always want his time with the children to be filled up with extracurriculars, and father should appreciate that mother is adapting her own schedule to meet his needs, and the children deserve to have extracurricular activities that they engage in on a regular basis, not just when mom is in charge."

Jesse Williams' child support payments were drastically reduced April 2022

A month after Jesse Wiliams and Aryn Drake-Lee settled their custody dispute, Williams filed new documents. In April 2022, he requested to modify his child support payments from $40,000 to $6,413 a month, which was based on a dramatic change in income that he experienced following his departure from "Grey's Anatomy" (via People). Williams left the show in May 2021, where he made a total of $6.2 million, and his updated income from this time on Broadway was $1,668 a week, per TMZ.

In documents he filed with the court, Williams explained that his income had changed and was no longer as reliable. As he noted, "I am requesting the Court reduce the child support to a reasonable amount I can afford given the significant reduction in my income and the now fluctuating nature of my income" (via Page Six).

Williams had previously told Page Six that he took the role on Broadway, which called for the actor to appear nude on stage, to challenge himself. "I asked [God] to do something that was scary and challenging and made me earn it and made me feel alive and not comfortable."

Aryn Drake-Lee accused Jesse Williams of harassment in June 2022

Issues between Aryn Drake-Lee and Jesse Williams escalated in June 2022 when Drake-Lee accused Williams and his legal team of bullying her. In a written letter, she explained, "There is a clear history of purposely made false statements coming from both your client, my ex‐husband, as well as from your Law Office and the attorneys involved." She also accused her ex-husband and his team of harassing her and added that she believed Williams was doing so on purpose when things did not go his way (via Entertainment Tonight).

On top of that, Drake-Lee accused Williams of interfering with her efforts to work and of standing in the way of their youngest child getting a new passport. Williams had previously requested that their youngest get his passport, but Drake-Lee insisted that nothing was standing in the way of achieving this other than Williams himself. She went on to add that Williams had not supplied her with the documentation required to obtain the passport until two weeks ahead of their June 2022 dispute.

Jesse Williams says Aryn Drake-Lee refuses to let him speak to their kids

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee found themselves back in court in September 2022 after Williams yet again filed documents to adjust their custody schedule. This time around, Williams requested to replicate the schedule that had been ordered while he was working on Broadway in early 2022 so that he could return to his role in the same production in the fall. Williams claimed that he was returning to court after Drake-Lee refused to honor their earlier court order, People reported.

Williams also detailed the alienation he claimed Drake-Lee is building between him and their children. As he alleged, Drake-Lee did not allow him to speak to their children for 24 days in a row. He further explained in court documents obtained by People, "Aryn almost never answers my Facetime calls for the children. ... Aryn's habitual violation of this long-standing court order is emotionally damaging not only for the children but admittedly for me." Williams wrote that he made efforts to work things out with Aryn prior to filing documents, but he claimed his ex-wife refused to participate.

Aryn Drake-Lee used Instagram to publicly comment on the ongoing custody dispute with Jesse Williams

Aryn Drake-Lee appeared to turn to Instagram to voice her own frustrations about her custody arrangement with her ex-husband. In a series of posts that she shared on her public account, Drake-Lee explained that she doesn't think it is in the best interests of her children to be on flights to see their father across the United States. She repeated many of the statements that she made in her own court filing, and at one point explained, "This was a temporary solution given for a temporary situation the first time. This is now a request that covers 8 out of 12 months of 2022" (via People).

On September 18, 2022, Drake-Lee explained that, from her point of view, the best interests of their children are not being met by the ex-couple's arrangement. As she detailed in an Instagram post: "I have yet to see where their best interests are being honored. I've been working on getting us out of there for years. I have conceded on issues that were wildly inappropriate, because I hoped it could be concluded."

Two days later, Drake-Lee took to Instagram again to voice her belief that her ex-husband is just not there as a parent. As she wrote, "Parenting is an action, not a ratio of time in a court order. I am the parent who manages the majority of the time because I am the one who shows up."

A judge approved the latest update in Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee's custody battle

In October 2022, a judge ruled in favor of the changes Jesse Williams requested so that he could continue working in New York for the Broadway play "Take Me Out." This officially put an end to Aryn Drake-Lee's request that their children remain with her while Williams performs in the play. Per the new agreement, the children will visit Williams in New York on set dates in October, November, and December. The pair were also ordered to return to co-parenting classes, this time for a series of 10 lessons, and told they were banned from "making derogatory remarks about the other party, either directly or indirectly to the minor children, nor allow any third party to do so," according to court documents obtained by Us Weekly.

The new order also restricted both parties from discussing the legal case with their children or around them, and they aren't allowed to let other people discuss the case around the children either. The judge added that Williams and Drake-Lee are not permitted to share derogatory posts about each other — at least not posts their children could wind up seeing — on social media (via Us Weekly).