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It’s normal to be nervous about how your day in court will go as you anticipate the end of your divorce or child custody case. You need to be thinking about how you will make a good first impression on the judge and how you will make your case. One thing that you should not worry about excessively is your appearance. As long as you follow a few simple rules about what you should wear to court and what you should avoid, you can be confident that you’re not making a bad impression and that the judge will be able to concentrate on your case and not your appearance.


Dress Neatly and Make Sure Your Clothes Fit

The first rule of thumb on what to wear to court is to choose clothing that looks neat and that fits you well. If you can’t afford to buy a new outfit, just be sure that you are meeting those two criteria with what you choose and you should be fine.

You will want to make sure your clothing is conservative. No plunging necklines, stiletto heels, tight jeans (actually, avoid jeans altogether), or muscle shirts. If you’re a man, button up your shirt and wear an undershirt or, if it’s cool out, a sweater. If you’re a woman, check your neckline, that your shirt covers your waistline (raise your arms over your head to make sure), and that your skirt isn’t too short.

You might not normally dress so conservatively, but it’s proper decorum for the courtroom. Remember that your judge might be very conservative and might have strict ideas about what constitutes appropriate clothing to wear to court. While you can feel free to express yourself outside the courtroom, doing so with inappropriate clothing inside the courtroom runs the risk of having the judge think poorly of you. Instead, strive to make a good first impression.


Choose the Right Pieces to Wear to Court

When choosing what to wear to court, think about what you would wear to a meeting at an office job. Men should wear a long-sleeved button-down shirt and tie with dress pants. If it’s warm, that’s an appropriate outfit; if it’s cold, wear a suit jacket or a solid-color sweater. Dress shoes are the appropriate choice for footwear. If you do not have dress shoes, you could get away with clean black sneakers if you absolutely must. Do not wear jeans, sandals, or colorful or dirty running shoes.

Women could wear either pants or a skirt. Tops could include a blouse, a nice knit shirt, or a sweater. Avoid sleeveless shirts, low necklines, jeans, t-shirts, and other casual clothing. If you choose pants to wear to court, be sure that they are dress pants and not leggings, capris, or yoga pants. Shoes can be pumps, flats, boots, or loafers, but they should not have very high heels or be in bright or distracting colors. Do not wear sandals or sneakers.


Accessorize With Moderation

Women can wear a necklace and bracelet, small earrings, and one or two unobtrusive rings. A scarf is okay as long as it’s not distracting. Both women and men can wear a wristwatch. Do not wear a hat or sunglasses into the courtroom. If you have a religious requirement to cover your hair, you may do so; just let the court staff know that it’s required by your religion if they ask. You might be required to be screened without your head covering in a private area by a staff member of the same sex. You might not be able to wear a covering that covers your face, however. If you normally wear one for religious purposes, contact your lawyer, your legal advocacy group, or the court ahead of time to find out what you should do.


Take Care of Your Hair and Makeup

In general, you do not want to draw attention to yourself with anything on your body, that that includes your hair and makeup. A simple, combed style is appropriate for men and women. If you have long hair, you can tie it back or put it up. Natural colors for hair are best; if you have a pink mohawk or bright blue curls, one option might be to wear a wig for the time you are in court. Another is to dye it a natural color and style it conservatively.

If you have a beard and/or mustache, make sure it’s trimmed or combed neatly. If you do not have a beard, make sure you shave the morning of your court appearance. The main goal is to look neat and tidy.

If you wear makeup, keep it toned down and natural. Skip the bright colors and apply it lightly. If you normally wear eye makeup, consider using a waterproof brand; emotions can run high during court cases, and you don’t want to have mascara or eyeliner streaking down your cheeks. Keep your fingernails trimmed and bare or painted a light or neutral color. If you have acrylic nails, ask your technician to file them down for you.


Tattoos and Piercings

Many people have tattoos and piercings. While they are a part of you, they could, in some cases, give the judge a poor impression. If you have piercings (other than one or two holes in each ear) that are not currently healing, consider taking them out for your time in court. Another option is to use clear plugs to maintain the shape of the piercings. If you must keep them in, wear small studs or something else that is relatively unnoticeable.

Try to cover any tattoos you might have. If they are on your arms or legs, simply wearing long sleeves and long pants will be sufficient. Tattoos on your hands, neck, or face can be covered with makeup. While tattoos are widely accepted in many circles, they might not be in others. You don’t know the judge’s personal opinion on tattoos, so it’s best to cover them if they might cause him or her to develop a poor impression of you.

Ultimately, the impression you first make on the person who will be deciding your case is going to depend on your physical appearance. There’s no better way to make a first impression than by what you wear to court. Make sure your hair and clothing are clean and that you observe the rules of proper courtroom decorum, and you will be sure to start off your case on the right foot.


If you find yourself needing assistance representing yourself in family law matters, contact us today to see how we can help! Leave your name and number to get a call back, or call us directly at 866-912-0465

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