Georgia Democratic senator Raphael Warnock has been ordered to attend mediation for a custody dispute with his ex-wife, after she accused him of neglecting visitation with their two young children and failing to pay childcare expenses.
Fulton County Superior Court judge Shermela J. Williams said on Friday that there were "numerous unresolved issues" between Warnock and his ex-wife Oulèye Ndoye, and ordered the couple to try to reach a mediated settlement by May 7. A status hearing in the case was also scheduled for May 16, with both Warnock and Ndoye required to attend, according to a notice from the judge on Monday.
Williams did not rule on Ndoye's request that Warnock be held in contempt of court for failing to abide by the original custody agreement.
The allegations against Warnock could undercut his campaign branding as an advocate for women, children, and low-income families. But if the mediation is successful, it could allow Warnock to settle the feud outside of court—and away from the public spotlight—as he mounts a reelection campaign for one of the most hotly contested seats in the midterm elections.
In a court filing in February, Ndoye accused Warnock of leaving her "financially strapped" by refusing to reimburse her for childcare expenses. She said Warnock also "routinely neglects" to give her notice when he is traveling out of town during his visitation days, and instead has the children "picked up from school by friends and [leaves] them with various babysitters overnight" while he is away.
Ndoye claimed Warnock also refused to return personal items that were awarded to her in divorce agreement. She asked the court to hold him in contempt for violating the custody order and that it be revised to allow her to move the children to Massachusetts, where she plans to attend a program at Harvard.
Ndoye accused Warnock of driving over her foot during an argument in 2020, a charge he has denied. Warnock and Ndoye married in 2016 and divorced in 2020.
Warnock was elected in a special election last January, narrowly tipping the Senate majority to the Democratic Party with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. He is vying for reelection in one of the most competitive races of the election cycle. Herschel Walker, a former NFL star, is the current frontrunner in the Republican primary.