Skip to main content

After Jesse Williams' Ex Blamed Grey's Anatomy Exit For His Child Support Issues, He Got Good News In Court

Former Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams and ex-wife Aryn Drake-Lee haven’t had the easiest road in regards to co-parenting since their divorce. The former couple most recently traded barbs over the amount of money the actor paid in child support, with Williams requesting a reduction in his his $40,000 monthly payments to reflect his lower income since his exit from the hit ABC medical drama. Despite Drake-Lee’s strong opinions regarding his Grey’s departure, the courts have ruled in Williams’ favor.

A court ruled last week to reduce Jesse Williams’ monthly child support payments to $6,413, according to documents obtained by People. That’s a major reduction from the $40,000 he was paying previously. In his request, Williams cited “a significant change in income” since he left Grey’s Anatomy in May 2021. In 2019, the actor earned $6.2 million by playing Jackson Avery, plus $183,000 in residuals. His current gig, a lead Broadway role in Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out, only earns him $1,668 per week, he reported in court documents.

Aryn Drake-Lee, however, took issue with her ex-husband’s request, pointing out that he left the show of his own volition, and that’s not a move he should have made if he wasn’t able to keep up his end of their support agreement. According to court documents, Drake-Lee responded to her former spouse's request for reduced payments, saying:

[Jesse Williams] left a favorable, coveted, high-paying position on a successful T.V. show, in pursuit of his ‘own path,’ and now seeks to shed his family responsibilities.

Jesse Williams announced he was leaving Grey’s Anatomy in the middle of Season 17. He starred as Jackson Avery — one half of fan favorite couple Japril — for 12 seasons before he and showrunner Krista Vernoff agreed the character needed to change his environment. Jackson moved to Boston to run his family’s Catherine Fox Foundation, while Williams made his debut on the Great White Way. He’s starring alongside Patrick J. Adams and Jesse Tyler Ferguson in Take Me Out, and the production just received a two-week extension amid rave reviews.

Despite the seemingly valid reason for the reduction in child support payments, that’s a huge financial change for Aryn Drake-Lee, who shares daughter Sadie, 8, and son Maceo, 6, with her ex-husband. Jesse Williams filed for divorce in 2017 after five years of marriage, and in 2018 he was ordered to pay more than $50,000 per month in child support in addition to the $50,695 per month in spousal support he’d been paying. Those payments were eventually reduced, and when their divorce was finalized in 2020, Williams agreed to pay $40,000 in child support every month, as well as over $100,000 in two spousal support payments.

The couple have battled in court over their custody agreement multiple times since splitting up, with a judge ordering them to participate in a “high conflict parents” program in 2021. They most recently came to an agreement last month, as the exes attempted to work their shared custody around the star's current schedule.

It sounds like their split continues to be a tough situation, and the family seems to be going through a lot of change right now. The actor has already lined up a couple of projects for when his Broadway stint is over, including a limited TV series adaptation of Take Me Out and the Hulu drama pilot Olga Dies Dreaming. We hope the best for the former couple and the children as they adjust. 

Grey’s Anatomy, meanwhile, continues without Jackson Avery and will return to ABC on Thursday, May 5, at 9 p.m. ET. In the meantime, check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other premieres are coming soon.

Heidi Venable
Heidi Venable

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.