THE LAW CENTER

Appearance Matters

Appearance shouldn’t matter when it comes to parenting, but it does. The judge might have only 10 minutes or less to make a decision about you and your child’s future.   The judge wants you in court so you can be visually observed, so how you appear matters.   

You’re being watched, so dress to impress. Respect the court by putting your best foot forward.  Show you care about what the judge thinks of you.  Wear something that would fit in an office setting around older, conservative people. Dress like you’re going to a fancy restaurant, religious service, or another “proper” event.  Wear clean, tucked-in clothes.  No torn jeans, T-shirts or sweatshirts with lettering or quotes across your chest.  

Don’t dress skin-tight, risqué, over-sexy short-shorts or mini-skirts, muscle shirts, tank tops, work-out clothes, team jerseys, gang symbols, or other loud clothes.  Tone down any spiked hair, super-loud hairdo, large/huge jewelry, and remove any body or facial piercings that you wouldn’t see in a court room on TV.  Assume that you have a stuffy old judge who has old fashioned opinions about the way people should look.

If you’re in work clothes because you’ve just come from work, explain that to the judge. When you first introduce yourself, apologize for your clothes and say that you’ve just come from work and didn’t have time to change. If you have no better clothes because you’re out of the home and your ex won’t let you get your things, explain that as well.  Don’t get into an argument with ex, just explain your situation, and the judge will appreciate that you explained your appearance.

Acting mannerly and polite is as important as how you look.  Don’t chew gum or mumble.   Stand up straight.   No slang, hip phrases or expressions.    Refer to the judge as “Judge Smith.”  Or “Your Honor,” only.  No over-familiar language.  Assume that the judge isn’t hip, doesn’t know trends, and doesn’t understand “the ghetto.”   When diplomats of foreign countries go to other countries, they learn the language of the place where they go.  In court, drop the slang and talk straight.   The odds are that the judge will be older than you and might not understand hip clothes, culture, or language. 

Don’t show anger, frustration, impatience, or raise your voice.  Control your emotions including excessive crying.  Showing discipline is better than letting raw, unrestrained emotion pour out.   You’ll be able to show you care if you’re genuine and authentic.  There’s no need for drama.  Always be calm, cool, collected, and polite to your ex, her friends and family, new significant other, and lawyer.   Hold doors, show your manners.  Never be rude. Often court clerks and other staff will let a judge know when they see misbehavior.

When your ex or an opposing witness is talking, look at them, listen, and pay attention. Don’t shake your head, roll your eyes, mutter, or interrupt, even for outrageous testimony.  Give the appearance of being thoughtful, calm, cool, and collected, even when someone’s saying nasty things about you.  Don’t make sarcastic, nasty, or childish comments.  Show class.

You want to show the judge that you’re a reasonable, under control, and patient.  Please note that these qualities are good parental qualities as well, so you’ll be demonstrating good parenting if you’re calm under fire.  If you act reasonable, the judge is more likely to think your request in court is reasonable.

You might bring family or friends along for moral support. Be aware of the expression, “guilt by association.”  Friends and family are an extension of you. The people you bring to court contribute to the judge’s opinion of you.   Your friends and witnesses need follow the same suggestions about appearance, manners, and behavior.   If you’re looking and acting appropriate but your friends aren’t, you’ll look phony.

Appearance and behavior matter.  How you look and act will contribute to the judge’s opinion of you and factor in his or her decision.  If you need legal representation, click the “Request Consultation” button for a free case evaluation.