Although Sherri Shepherd has yet to comment specifically on the brewing custody battle over her 9-year-old son, The View co-host’s friends need to stop talking publicly, the lawyer for the boy’s father tells PEOPLE.
Jeff Tarpley “doesn’t want to raise his son in the glare of the media,” attorney Duane Folke says. “If she’ll stop talking, we’ll stop talking. I want to talk in court.”
Tarpley’s custody modification request, filed by Folke April 2, is due to be heard in court July 21. Tarpley, a comedian, wants Jeffrey to live with him in Los Angeles, where he and his girlfriend have two sons, ages 8 and 3.
During a discussion on Monday’s View about working parents, Shepherd said, “Mommy is trying to pay the bills.”
Shepherd’s friend Wendy Williams was more direct on her show Monday, saying Tarpley “says that her schedule is too busy and that she is neglecting their son Jeffrey and leaving him with unskilled nannies. Well, somebody’s got to work!”
Meanwhile, friends of the co-host are jumping to her defense. “She is an amazing mom and spends a lot of time with Jeffrey Jr.,” says a one source adding that Shepherd is really “hands on” when it comes to her son.
“He is never left alone with babysitters or nannies for extended periods of time. When she’s doing The View, she takes him to school in the morning and when she has to travel for work, he often goes with her.”
Folke urged Shepherd and her friends to avoid the temptation to vent their frustrations on national TV. “I don’t understand why they can’t keep their mouths shut,” he tells PEOPLE.
Folke also took issue with Williams’ suggestion that Tarpley and Shepherd’s recently estranged husband, Lamar Sally, “have gotten together and they’re trying to bury Sherri.” Folke says it’s a coincidence that Sally recently filed for custody of his and Shepherd’s unborn child, who is being carried by a surrogate.
“What she said was preposterous,” Folke says. “We’re not ganging up on anyone.”
Folke says that Tarpley rarely sees Jeffrey. He suggested to PEOPLE that Tarpley lost primary custody of their special-needs son during their divorce battle because the court was “starstruck.”
He says Jeffrey Jr. is caught between one parent who surrounds him with “super luxury” and another who provides “what I would call normal existence,” and it’s important that custody go to the parent who has more time to be with the child. He complained that Shepherd took Jeffrey out of school for three months because of her obligations on Dancing with the Stars.
As the July court date nears, another Shepherd source tells PEOPLE the comedian plans to fight. “She is tough – she will be a pit bull.”
• With reporting by K.C. BAKER
For more on Shepherd’s dual custody battles, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.