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High Profile Custody Battles: Sherri Shepherd vs. Jeffrey Tarpley

In addition to her divorce from her current husband, Lamar Sally, Sherri Shepherd has also faced another legal conflict recently: a child custody battle with her former husband, Jeffrey Tarply. In his emergency petition for temporary physical custody of their nine year old son, Tarply claimed that Shepherd prioritized her career over caring for their son. Specifically, Tarply claimed in his petition that he should be granted custody because of Shepherd's "poor parenting choices and refusal to provide for [their] child's immediate needs."

According to Tarply's legal filings, his decision to file an emergency petition for custody, which are generally only filed in matters where the immediate review or intervention by a judge is absolutely necessary (like in cases where a child's physical or mental well-being may be harmed absent immediate intervention), was rooted in his belief that the couple's son, who has special needs, was suffering from mental, physical and educational neglect. Despite Tarply's claims, the California judge presiding over the matter determined a temporary emergency order was not necessary, and scheduled the child custody modification case for a hearing on July 21, 2014. The July 21st hearing resulted in Shepherd retaining physical custody of her son. In her decision, presiding Judge Michelle Williams denied Tarply's request because there had not been a "material change in circumstances" warranting a modification of custody.

The standard Judge Williams used to ultimately award Shepherd continued physical custody of her son is similar to Georgia's "substantial change in circumstances" standard. In essence, a parent seeking to modify a current child custody order in Georgia will be successful only if a court finds that either the original custodian is no longer able or suited to retain custody or that the conditions surrounding the child have changed so much that that the child's welfare requires a modification of custody. Green v. Krebs, 245 Ga.App. 756 (2000); Elders v. Elders, 206 Ga. 297 (1950). This standard is not easy to meet. Thus, Georgia parents seeking to modify child custody awards should seek the advice of an attorney with proven experience handling child custody modifications.

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