Fighting for One Child While Denying the Other: Sherri Shepherd’s Two Custody Dramas

Posted by Joseph Lento | Jul 10, 2020 | 0 Comments

Actress and comedian Sherri Shepherd is no stranger to family court. Her two marriages have ended in divorce and two very different child custody battles.

An Unclaimed Baby by a Surrogate

Her second marriage to television writer Lamar Sally ended after three years in 2014. At the time they split, the couple had hired a surrogate to give birth for them to a child that would be Sally's genetic child but would have no genetic tie to Shepherd. The baby, a boy named LJ, was born in Pennsylvania in August 2014, a few months after the couple's divorce was final. Sally was at the hospital with the surrogate mother when LJ was born, but Shepherd was not.

Shepherd's name was entered on the baby's birth certificate and she petitioned the court to waive her parental rights—essentially saying that the baby was not hers and preventing Sally from being able to seek child support money from her. A district court judge and a three-judge Superior Court of Appeals panel disagreed in 2015, ordering Shepherd to pay alimony and child support to Sally for LJ.

A Custody Battle Over a Special Needs Child

Meanwhile, Shepherd was fighting with her first husband, Jeff Tarpley, for custody of the son they had together while they were married. Shepherd and Tarpley were married from 2001 until 2010 and, in 2005, they had a son together, Jeffrey Charles Tarpley. Their son was born premature and very underweight, with significant developmental disabilities.

Their son's condition improved and in 2014, while Shepherd was fighting with Sally and Pennsylvania courts to not be the mother of LJ, Tarpley took her to court to try and get custody of their son from her, saying that Shepherd was a horrible mother who neglected the 9-year-old boy. Tarpley said that their son was nearly illiterate, couldn't tie his shoes, and was being raised by unskilled nannies while Shepherd was laser-focused on her career.

Shepherd fired back that Tarpley was an absentee father who did not spend time with their son, and who had no job. The court took Shepherd's side that time and allowed her to remain the boy's custodial parent, though she and Tarpley have revisited their custody arrangements several times since.

Numerous Legal Issues Raised

Shepherd's legal issues are complex and confusing. She continues to fight to be the primary custodial parent to one son, while she has to be forced to acknowledge and provide for the other. The biggest difference between the two appears to be genetics and that Shepherd does not feel the same connection to the child she had with Sally via a surrogate.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court of Appeals finding that Shepherd is legally responsible for her child with Sally was hailed as a victory for surrogates, as it establishes that a parent need not have a genetic tie to a child to be held legally responsible. Meanwhile, Shepherd's custody battles with Tarpley over her first son—despite her star power—are not so unusual.

Regardless of whether your child custody situation is outside the norm, like Shepherd's with Sally, or more common, like Shepherd's with Tarpley, the LLF Law Firm can help. Call our Family Law Team for help at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact a skilled Family Law Team Today!

The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.