Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dressing for Court

Ohio Family Law Blog has a spot on post with How To Dress For Court – Do’s And Don’ts. He has some interesting specific suggestions that I will bet are based on experience.

The proper and/or appropriate attire for either party changes dramatically if the parties are facing a “contested” divorce and/or custody hearing, wherein each would be on the witness stand for protracted periods of time and, wherein, their appearances would certainly be scrutinized by the Court.
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 child/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, I would definitely suggest that he consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt to “cover” the tattoos! 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…… do not want to appear in Court as Sharon Stone appeared in “Basic Instinct”! This is not the time to appear to be “hot” or “sexy” especially if you are seeking custody of your child or 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”.

I advise my clients to dress appropriately for Court. Dress as you 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 or Magistrate may believe that you are showing or displaying a lack of respect for the Court. You have but 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.
I make a slightly different suggestion. Dress like you are going on a date to a very nice restaurant - not a place for a suit and tie. With the point being that the client/witness should feel comfortable in their clothes. Something I learned a long time ago when I still did criminal defense work and jury trials. The client was clearly not comfortable in his clothes and it was attracting the attention of the jury.

Kysa M. Crusco over at the New Hampshire Family Law Blog also picked up on this Mr. Mues' post. She makes a similar point to what to mine above:

Case in point: I was sitting in court waiting for one of my cases to be called and watching a hearing in progress. The case was a parenting action, with two pro se parents appearing before the judge on a contested temporary hearing. The mother appeared neatly groomed and dressed, and seemed reasonable and articulate when presenting her case. The father, on the other hand, was dressed in torn cargo shorts, a thin, white tank top and work boots. He appeared sloppy and careless, and despite the fact the he seemed to have some good points about his case, it was hard to overlook his exterior when assessing his credibility. A pair of slacks or khaki pants and polo shirt would have gone a long way.

Attorney Mues advises litigants to dress as they would for church or an important job interview. Good advice. I would add that you should not overdress either. If you work as a mechanic, and rarely dress in a suit, steer clear. If you are an accountant and go to work every day in a suit, it is a good choice. Pick an outfit that will give a good impression, but an outfit that you will feel comfortable with and fits your personality and profession.

Oh, and piercings...good idea to leave them at home.

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