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How to Dress for Court

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Jan 03, 2010 | 0 Comments

Clients often wonder how to dress for court. What they should wear for their hearing? The answer can vary depending on whether your case is contested or non-contested. If your case is not contested, such as a no-fault divorce or approval of an agreement, then the following attire is recommended:

  • For Men:  A nice pair of slacks and a dress shirt or golf shirt would be appropriate. A sports coat or suit may be worn but certainly is not required. Shoes and socks should be worn as “flip flops” are prohibited. Shorts are not permitted to be worn in the Courtroom, nor are tank tops, tee shirts, shirts reflecting foul or vulgar language or politically incorrect language, or hats.
  • For Women:  A dress, skirt and top, or slacks and a nice top would be appropriate. As in the paragraph above, it would not be appropriate to appear in Court in shorts, a halter top, or a skimpy tank top, or flip flops.

In contested cases, where the parties will testify against one another, the Court's impression of each party is much more important, and the proper and/or appropriate attire for either party changes dramatically. For instance, in a contested divorce or child custody hearing, wherein each party would be on the witness stand for protracted periods of time, the following attire would be appropriate:

  • For Men: Same as above; however, a sports coat or suit could be worn but would not be considered mandatory. If the Husband/Father is seeking custody of his child or children, he would want to be dressed conservatively – nothing too flashy, nothing too out-of-the ordinary. For example, if a young Husband is seeking custody of his children, he could receive “negative” points if he appeared in Court in non-traditional attire such as Black Gothic Style clothing or wildly colored hair. Remember, that most Judges are older conservative individuals. If the Husband/Father has an abundance of tattoos, he should consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt to “cover” them.  Also, it would be advisable for the client to remove evidence of body piercings – ears, lips, nose, eyebrows, etc.
  • For Women:  The main point to remember is that this is not the time to appear to be “hot” or “sexy” – especially if you are seeking custody of your children. You want to appear stable, sensible, warm and loving. Soft colors are better than bright and vibrant colors. Longer skirt lengths are better than short skirt lengths. You do not want to wear anything that would be considered “too short, too skimpy, too wild, too bold, or too sexy”.

Typically, clients should dress for Court as they would for church or an important job interview. If you are in the armed services, wearing your military attire is a very safe choice. If you look sloppy or inappropriate, the Judge may believe that you are showing or displaying a lack of respect for the Court.  Never forget that you have only one opportunity to create that “first impression”, so consider these “do's and don'ts” in advance of your Court date and make a good impression with the Judge.

Source:  “How To Dress For Court – Do's And Don'ts” by Robert L. Mues, published at his Ohio Family Law Blog.

About the Author

J. Benjamin Stevens

Senior Partner


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