By Sara Pitcher
When wondering what to wear to divorce court, it is important to remember to dress appropriately and professionally.
The way you look is one of the first things a person will notice about you and can be a large factor in the overall first impression that you make with the judge.
This initial impression may be more important and have a larger impact on your case than you realize.
People naturally create assumptions based on their observations. Because of this, you want to influence those assumptions in the most positive way possible.
How can these assumptions impact your case?
Opposing counsel may make a guess as to whether you would make a good witness based on your appearance and the way you present yourself. If they believe you would make a good witness (and their client may not make the best witness for any number of reasons), they may suggest to their client that they make a settlement proposal to avoid a hearing where you would come across better than their client.
Additionally, your appearance and the assumptions people make based on your appearance and mannerisms may tend to contribute to whether people believe you are a credible witness. You want people to take you seriously when you are a party to a case or a witness and your appearance can contribute to that.
Other Times To Dress Professionally
Many people would expect to have to dress nicely for court appearances, but it can be helpful to dress nicely for other events in your case, too.
Mediation is another time when your appearance can play a role in your case. If opposing counsel sees you, this may be a time when he or she formulates an opinion about how you may be as a witness. If they feel you would make a good witness, you may receive a more favorable offer at mediation to attempt to avoid a hearing.
Another time it is important to consider your appearance is a deposition. At your deposition, you will be answering questions under oath. In large part, what you say will determine whether you are deemed to make a good witness. However, your appearance may subtly play a role in this as well.
Further, if the deposition is video taped, it may be played during a court proceeding and shown to the judge. You want to take every opportunity possible to make a good impression on the judge.
Examples Of What To Wear To Court
So what should you wear to court to make this good impression? You should dress professionally and in business casual attire, at a minimum.
While it is usually not necessary to go out and purchase a brand new suit, or to wear a tie if that would make you uncomfortable, you should dress professionally. You should dress conservatively and in a respectful manner.
Men should wear slacks, a tucked in button down shirt, belt, closed-toe dress shoes, and dark colored socks. Women should wear slacks and a dress shirt or a skirt and dress shirt. If you wear a skirt, it should be no higher than your knees when standing and you should give consideration to its length when you are seated as well. Women should wear a pump or dressy flat shoe.
Clothes should not appear too worn out, i.e., the edges should not be frayed and there should not be any holes in the articles of clothing or shoes.
You should consider that you might have to go through a metal detector when entering the courthouse. Because of this, you should keep jewelry and accessories to a minimum and pockets should be empty.
Some courthouses also have restrictions on the length of a necklace chain that you may wear into the courthouse. Some courthouses also prohibit cell phones from being brought into the building.
Having a cell phone in your pocket, especially if it rings or vibrates during the hearing or if you are on it during every break in the proceeding, may make it appear that you are not focused on the proceeding and would rather be somewhere else. It is better to just leave your cell phone at home or in the car to avoid this impression.
In addition to the clothes you wear, it is equally as important that you are well groomed to make the best impression. This means your hair should be clean and combed, nails should be trimmed and clean, and females’ make-up, if any, should be conservative.
You want your appearance to show the judge that you respect the court and the seriousness of the proceedings. The more put together you look on the outside, the more put together people will assume you are on the inside.
If you have questions about what to wear to an event in your case, you should ask your divorce attorney if your outfit is appropriate. If you believe your outfit may not be the best choice, then you should change clothes. It is better to be safe than sorry and err on the side of caution.