Jesse Williams and Ex-Wife Both Claim 'Emotional Distress' in Damning Duel Custody Court Filings

Grey's Anatomy alum Jesse Williams and his ex-wife Aryn Drake-Lee remain at odds over the well-being of their children, daughter Sadie, 8, and son Maceo, 7

Aryn Drake-Lee; Jesse Williams
Aryn Drake-Lee and Jesse Williams. Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

Jesse Williams and ex-wife Aryn Drake-Lee traded filings in court this week amid a contentious custody battle that spilled into the public eye.

The Grey's Anatomy star and the real estate agent, both 41, were together for over 10 years and married for five before he filed for divorce in April 2017. The two share daughter Sadie Drakelee-Williams, 8, and son Maceo Drakelee-Williams, 7.

On Wednesday, TMZ reported that Williams filed legal docs to change their custody agreement. According to the papers obtained by PEOPLE, the actor requested that the court grant him specific custodial visits with his children while he temporarily moves to New York City from Los Angeles this fall to reprise his Tony-nominated role in the Broadway revival of Take Me Out.

A previous court order granted Williams custody during his spring run in the play that allowed him four consecutive days a month in N.Y. with his children. But Drake-Lee, Williams said in his request, is now not honoring that agreement, specifically during the four weekends he's requested beginning this October — many of which, Williams noted in the documents, coincide with school breaks.

He also complained in the documents that Drake-Lee has not honored previously custody agreement commitments, such as an order allowing the non-custodial parent to call the children once per day.

"Aryn almost never answers my Facetime calls for the children," Williams alleged, claiming she once blocked him from speaking with his kids for 24 days straight. "Aryn's habitual violation of this long- standing court order is emotionally damaging not only for the children but admittedly for me. I cannot describe how emotionally devastating it is to continuously step out of an engagement and/or find a quiet, well-lit place for my one sliver of time in a day to see my children (via FaceTime), the two people I love the most in the world, only to sit there staring at myself waiting as it rings and rings and rings without her answering, or her just refusing and canceling the call. I know the children can hear the sound of my distinct FaceTime calls at the same time of day each day and see Aryn refuse them."

"I attempted to resolve these issues with Aryn informally. Aryn refused," Williams wrote in the papers. "Aryn's conduct demonstrates her continued, unrelenting intent to frustrate my relationship with the children.

Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee
Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee. John Shearer/Getty Images

Drake-Lee, in her court filing obtained by PEOPLE, argued that she's focused on "the best interests of the children and the unreasonable burdens that would be placed upon them by [Williams's] difficult and demanding requests."

"I am not in agreement with a 7 year old and 8 year old being asked to fly on overnight red eye fights on a regular basis' missing at least 2 days of school per month," she wrote, refuting his knowledge of their time off schedule. "Considering how exhausting and regressive these requests were for our children in the spring, I suspect that even more than just the 2 days a month will be missed as a result."

"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. The majority of the school calendar year," she added in the papers. "[Williams] will have been out of town more than in town, and he is requesting that the children be thrown upside down to accommodate that."

She went on to say that Williams "refuses to work towards co-parenting solutions that create the stability that our children needs," and argued that "he doesn't have a history of engaging with a consistent schedule that supports the needs of our children" as she is the "primary attachment caregiver." She claimed, instead, he sees the kids more as "cargo" he can ship back-and-forth at will.

Williams's ex also alleged that she is "experiencing emotional distress" from her communication with Williams and his legal team. "I am being bullied [and] harassed," she said.

The court has not yet made a decision in the custody case. PEOPLE has reached out to representatives for Williams and Drake-Lee for comment.

On Wednesday, Drake-Lee appeared to make her feelings about the matter public, sharing an Instagram post that seemingly referenced the pains of co-parenting long-distance.

"Is it good for the health and wellness of a 7 year old and 8 year old to be taken out of school on a regular basis to fly cross country overnight on a red eye to be on the ground for two days? Is it reasonable for them to return dazed and confused and then be expected to pick right up and survive at school the rest of the week?" she asked. "I don't think so! Neither do any of the parents who actually parent on a routine basis."

"There's a name for the condition of an adult who expects their children to indulge, caregiver and service that adult's desires at the children's expense…"

In her hashtags, Drake-Lee said that it was "receipt season" that told her followers that she's "stayed quiet for far too long."

Stefanie Keenan/WireImage

This isn't the first time Williams and Drake-Lee have found themselves in court. Since their split. the pair have weathered a series of legal battles regarding custody of their children and Williams's child support.

In June 2018, Williams was ordered to pay more than $50,000 per month in child support in addition to the $50,695 per month in spousal support that he had paid Drake-Lee since January of that year. Months later, the actor filed an appeal to fight the order, claiming he pays too much.

By October 2020, Williams and Drake-Lee had finalized their divorce, with documents obtained by PEOPLE at the time showing that the exes would share joint legal and physical custody of their two children. Williams was also ordered to pay his ex-wife $40,000 in child support every month, as well as over $100,000 in two spousal support payments.

Then, in April 2021, the former couple was ordered by a judge to attend a "high conflict parents" program as they navigate their co-parenting relationship.

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Grey's Anatomy - JESSE WILLIAMS
Richard Cartwright/ABC

Nearly a year later, in March, Williams and Drake-Lee settled their child custody dispute, which stated they will continue to share legal custody of their two kids. The judge also recommended that the exes seek co-parenting counseling, as "both seek a great deal of fine-tuning in their custody and visitation orders, much of which a court is not as well equipped to handle."

Williams's monthly child support payments were "temporarily" lowered a month later, in April — a modification that came following his May 2021 departure from Grey's Anatomy. He went from paying his ex-wife $40,000 in child support each month to $6,413.

Take Me Out will begin Broadway performances again will on Oct. 27.

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