I recently watched an interesting speech that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg delivered for TED Talks.  Sandberg provides the following advice for those women who are interested in having children and staying in the workforce: (1) sit at the table; (2) make your partner a real partner; and (3) don’t leave before you leave.

This would be a great speech to watch with your team, take notes, and then discuss.

What You Need to Know about Judges to Win Your Custody Case – If You Are a Man

The other day, someone asked me whether I have ever seen a man win custody of his children in court.  Yes, I have.  It does not happen often; however, it happens more often than men think it happens.  If you are a man and would like to win your custody case, then keep reading.

This is my theory on the way judges make decisions in child custody cases.    Judges want to make sure that they make the right ruling.  Or to say it the way a former judge told me a couple of years ago: “I want to make sure I get it right.”  Part of getting it right involves applying the law of the state to the facts of the case.  Judges use their own life experiences to determine how the law applies to the facts.  Judges also bring certain biases – and prejudices — to the bench with them.  One of those biases is that a child belongs with his or her mother – particularly in the child’s early years of life.

Although judges have that bias, they do not like to consider themselves biased.   So they look for opportunities to award custody to the father, because doing so allows them to say to themselves:  “I am not biased against fathers.  Just the other day I gave a father custody of the children.”

Now, a judge is not going to make a ruling against his or her bias for just any case.  It has to be a special case.  It has to be the kind of case in which the facts cause a reasonable person to say: “What kind of mother is that?”

No, it is not enough for the man to be a great father (unless the man is a great father whose teenaged children tell the judge they want to live with him).  Great fathers – with nothing else  – typically  get standard possession and child support.  If you want to be the parent that determines where the children reside, you have to show the judge two things: (1) you are a great father and (2) she is not a great mother.  As a tie goes to the house in a game of black jack, so too a tie goes to the mother in a custody battle.

So how do you show a judge you are a great father and she is not a great mother?  Well, to show that you are a great father, you must do the things they great fathers do. Let’s start with a checklist. You need to be able to articulate the role that you play in providing for each child’s hygiene, meals and food, sleep schedule, education, emotional nurturing, healthcare, entertainment, playtime activity, and miscellaneous needs.  You also need to be able to discuss the future that you envision for your child and the steps that you will take to bring that vision to reality.  You will see why in a moment.

In most states, judges are directed to determine child custody by considering a number of factors. For example, in Texas, judges make child custody decisions by determining what they believe is in the best interest of the child. Judges are supposed to consider several factors when determining what is in the best interest of the child.  My non-exhaustive list of factors includes the following: (1) the desires of the child; (2) the emotional and physical needs of the childnow and in the future; (3) the emotional and physical danger to the child now and in the future; (4) the parental abilities of the individuals seeking custody; (5) the plans for the child by these individuals; (6) the stability of the home; (7) the acts or omissions of the parent that may indicate that the existing parent-child relationship is not a proper one; and (8) any other factor that is important to the judge.  (Note: If you are a reader who has a custody case in a state other than Texas, then you should do a search query using phrases such as, “child custody factors in [insert state]” to figure out what standard and factors your judge will apply to your case.)

By creating the checklist and writing down the role you’ve played in raising each child – and the role you intend to play — you position yourself to be able to address the factors that the judge will consider.

While you are busy gathering proof of your greatness as a father, do not forget to gather information that focuses on the mother’s faults. As I suggested above, if you are going to win your custody case, you are going to have to present information about the mother in a way that convinces the judge that she is not a great mother.  Winning does not require a complete assassination of her character; however, you will have to show her parenting abilities in a negative light.

While gathering your evidence, you should keep in mind that her “issues” will only be relevant to the extent that they impact the child. To use a somewhat extreme example, evidence that the mother of your school-aged child works as a stripper from 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. is not as helpful as evidence that the mother strips from 4:00 p.m. – midnight would be.  Can you see how one could have a greater impact on the mother’s ability to parent?

Here are some other questions that you might want to ask yourself about the mother of your child. Would your child rather live with you than with his or her mother? Does your work schedule provide more opportunity for you to spend time with the children?  Has she failed to give your children their medications? Has she ever struck your child so hard that she left marks?  Does she mentally or physically abuse your child?  Are your children scared of her current boyfriend or girlfriend? Has she ever failed to supervise your child?  Does she leave your child with inappropriate sitters? Is she late picking up your child from school or activities? Is she late delivering your child to school or activities? Does she miss important events in your child’s life? Does she fail to use car seats for children who are supposed to be placed in them?  Does she have a valid driver’s license? Does she have any pending cases that involve alcohol and/or drugs?  Does she use alcohol or drugs around the children?  Has she ever disobeyed a court order? The more of these questions you can answer with a “yes,” the better position you will be in during a trial.

Once you present overwhelming evidence that you have provided for the child’s emotional needs and will do so in the future, and you present evidence that the mother is not a great mother to the child, you will be the right man to benefit from the judge’s desire to prove something to himself.  Good luck.  And feel free to comment below if you need me to clarify anything for you.

Broad vs. Narrow Mission Statements for Nonprofit Organizations

A non-profit organization’s mission statement is that organization’s statement of its reason for being. It is important that those who are in leadership positions within the organization understand its mission, because deviating from the mission can expose the organization and its leaders to legal liability.

When creating (or updating) a mission statement, the directors must consider whether they are going to adopt a broad or narrow mission statement.  Some directors (and counsel for directors) recommend a very broad mission statement.  The rationale is that a broad mission statement presents a lower risk that someone acting on behalf of the organization will have his or her actions voided for being outside the purpose of the organization.  Also, if the board of directors uses a broad mission statement, then it is less likely that the board will have to amend the articles and/or bylaws at a later date so that the directors’ actions are in line with the organization’s mission.

Although there are good reasons to use broad mission statements, a narrow mission statement might make more sense for an organization.  The rationale for using a narrow mission statement is that using such a mission statement will help ensure that the organization knows what its purpose is.  Moreover, future boards may be less likely to stray from the organization’s original purpose if they know exactly what that purpose is.

Whether the directors choose a broad mission statement or a narrow one, they may need to consider updating IRS filings, amending their formation documents (e.g., articles of incorporation), and amending their operating documents (e.g., bylaws) if the organization’s mission is not in line with the organization’s current activities.