Deciding Custody And Spousal Support In A New York Divorce
Once upon a time, they were happy Brooklynites. He taught middle and high school history and pursued modeling and acting, while she brought home the bacon as a real estate broker at Brown Harris Stevens.
Then Jesse Williams got a part in the 2008 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 and in 2009, earned a spot on the smash hit Shonda Rhimes show Grey’s Anatomy.
Aryn Drake-Lee, then his longtime girlfriend, made the move to California with him as his star launched into orbit.
Soon, Jesse wasn’t merely a handsome actor on a medical melodrama, but an increasingly vocal and visible activist for racial justice.
He was also effusive when he talked about Aryn to reporters, praising her independence and describing her proudly as “self-made.”
In 2010, he told USA Today “I was a teacher when I met her, so she’s been with me through all different facets of my career. She’s stuck with me through thick and and thin. We know each other in and out.”
Those years of their relationship must have been a wild ride. Friends in New York have marveled at the transformation they’ve undergone.
“If you knew the couple when they were back in Brooklyn, when he had dreads and a backpack and she was grinding doing real estate, you wouldn’t believe it,” one told People Magazine.
In the blink of an eye, he went from a guy being supported by his more successful girlfriend to the breadwinner in the household, providing for his highly educated, extraordinarily accomplished partner.
In 2012, after dating for five years and living through these radical life changes together, the couple married in a small ceremony witnessed by their families and close friends.
A guest told People Magazine, “Jesse was beaming with joy throughout the entire ceremony. It was the perfect night with lots of smiling, laughing, and emotion. You could feel the love they have for each other. They’re madly in love!”
In 2016, when he received the Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards, Jesse thanked his “amazing wife for changing my life.”
They were one of Hollywood’s favorite couples, with Jesse on the front lines in the fight for Black Lives Matter and his proudly black wife, who was invariably photographed with natural hair, giving a glimpse of a happy, healthy, modern black marriage and family.
Aryn gave birth to their daughter, Sadie, and later their son, Maceo, completing the portrait.
In 2016, they collaborated to create a new emoji keyboard for cell phones, called Ebroji.
It was billed as an app “designed specifically to enhance the way we already communicate,” and Jesse shared on Twitter that the categories on Ebroji sound like their users “ALL of them. Brown, trans, ALL, people can see and use images that they connect to as an extension of themselves.”
The couple’s commitment to equality and access for all seemed entirely genuine and deeply ingrained, and that perception of a deep integrity and passion has contributed a great deal of goodwill to Jesse’s public persona and career.
But their relationship, and their Hollywood lifestyle, wasn’t without its problems.
For one, Aryn didn’t try to play the part of a fawning starlet.
She retained a significant amount of privacy for herself and their children, and rarely accompanied her husband on the red carpets at high-profile events.
Celebrity gossip rags took their shots at her authentic appearance, and one friend told Page Six, “When you hear people saying, ‘Why aren’t you with someone hotter or with this actress?’ I’m sure that placed a strain on their relationship.”
Others have noted that Aryn began to feel isolated in Los Angeles, with Jesse’s frenetic work schedule keeping him away, often leaving her to raise their two small children alone.
Aryn also wasn’t a fan of the Los Angeles social scene, with one friend telling People Magazine, “[Aryn] thought everyone was so different from their friends back in New York, and not as genuine.”
And so it was that in April of this year, news broke that the couple had decided to divorce after five years of marriage.
Questions swirled about who had filed and what had prompted the split, and rumors that Jesse had cheated threatened to overwhelm his carefully cultivated reputation for decency.
He swatted back in Jay-Z’s “Footnotes for 4:44,” where he said, “I was in a relationship 13 years, 13 real years, not 5 year, not 7 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 with a person I’ve loved with all my heart – that I threw a person and my family in the trash because a girl I work with is cute.”
Despite repeated denials, he’s been romantically linked to Minka Kelly, and given the intensity of the divorce battle playing out between himself and Aryn, it’s easy to believe he had already moved on.
For instance, while Jesse had requested joint custody at the outset of the divorce, in August, Aryn asked a California court for sole custody.
She noted that Jesse’s work schedule is unpredictable, that his residence is a “revolving door” of women, and that he recently engaged in a display of road rage in front of the kids.
Jesse had already complained to the judge that, “Aryn restricts my time with the children and decides when and for how long I may have them. She has rejected, without any reason, each and every request I have made to have the children sleep over at my residence.”
The custody matter was decided on September 6, with a judge signing off on a 50/50 parenting arrangement that includes a number of additional provisions, such as one that forbids either parent from introducing a new romantic partner to the children until the relationship has endured for at least six months, and prohibiting the couple from posting pictures of the kids on social media.
More recently, though Jesse had sought to avoid paying maintenance to his wife, he was ordered to fork over $160,000 at the end of September to cover spousal and child support, as well as Aryn’s legal fees.
It’s a sad end to a relationship that friends and fans once idolized.
One friend, angry when news of the divorce broke, told Page Six, “She poured money into this relationship and sacrificed her life for him, and now he wants to go out and be the hot single Hollywood guy. Jesse wants to do whatever he thinks will make him a bigger star.”
For Jesse Williams and Aryn Drake-Lee, their cool Brooklyn romance could not survive the hot lights of Hollywood.
Hiring A Queens Divorce And Custody Attorney
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