Top Court Attire Mistakes Judges Hate & How to Avoid Them

Court Attire and Appearance

Your Court attire and appearance are worthy of careful consideration. How you’re dressed for Court reflects your respect for the Judge, the Court and Justice system.

It’s also a reflection of you! Disregard your appearance and you risk drawing a judge’s attention away from the issues of your case. Worse yet, you may be left trying to deal with a negative first impression. Instead, your Court attire and appearance should compliment your case by increasing your credibility.

So, let’s learn what to wear and what not to wear in Court so you can put your best foot forward in your divorce or custody case. In addition, find a free court attire and court appearance checklist at the end of this article, along with helpful information about your first court appearance in a divorce, custody or family law case. 

Mistake #1: Informal Court Attire 

Examples include: Jeans; t-shirts; shorts; sweatpants; jumpsuits; jerseys; sports and/or athletic apparel; tennis shoes; slippers; and flips flops. 

Going to court is a formal affair.  So, you want to look your best. Although you don’t have to buy a suit for court, if you own a professional-looking suit, wear it. However, if you don’t own a suit or it doesn’t fit properly, professional/business attire is fine.

Dressing for court is similar to dressing for a professional job interview. Think dress pants, slacks, or pressed-khaki pants with dress blouses or button-up, collared-shirts under long-sleeved cardigans or blazers. In addition, stick with tall, dark-colored socks with close-toed black or brown dress shoes.

Court attire and professional business apparel in court

Mistake #2: Inappropriate Court Attire

Tank tops, mid drift shirts, short skirts, sleeveless and/or low-cut blouses or v-neck sweaters, and tight-fitted or extremely-baggy clothing are inappropriate in a Courtroom. Furthermore, clothing with images, messages, or words can be provoking and/or inappropriate and therefore, should also not be worn in a courtroom. 

Therefore, cover your skin when in the Courtroom and all undergarments.  Bra straps, underwear, boxers, or briefs should not be visible at any time in court.  If necessary, invest in a brown or black dress belt to prevent pants from sagging in the courtroom. 

court attire shoes

Mistake #3: Poor Personal Hygiene/Appearance

Strong body odor, bad breath, greasy and/or unruly hair, a scraggly-looking beard, dirty finger nails, scuffed shoes, etc… all leave an unfavorable impression on a judge.

For example, imagine a parent arguing for more parenting time enters court in wrinkled, mismatched, and stained clothing, with long disheveled hair. A first impression like this could lead the Judge to infer the parent as irresponsible, neglectful, inconsiderate, reckless, inept, etc…

With such a negative first impression, it’s much more difficult for the parent to present and be viewed by the Judge as a competent and qualified co-parent. Any arguments of competency on the parent’s behalf will strongly conflict with the image s/he initially portrayed to the judge. After all, when actions don’t match words, we tend to view a person’s actions to be more reliable, honest, and a better representation of the truth, or their “real” character. 

make sure everything is clean

Clothes should be freshly-laundered, ironed, and in good-condition. Do not wear anything that has holes, tears or visible stains.Shirts should be neatly tucked-in before entering the courtroom. Shoelaces should be tied. Clean and polish dress shoes the night before your court appearance, if applicable.

Attend to personal hygiene the morning of your court appearance.  

    • On the day of your court appearance, shower and wash your hair.
    • Hair should be combed and neatly-cut or styled. Your hair should not hang in your face or obstruct your eyesight. If you’re constantly tucking-in bangs or brushing hair out of your face, it’s very distracting for you and a judge.
    • Brush your teeth and if necessary, use a breath mint, but finish it before going into court.
    • Trim and scrub finger nails and remove any visible dirt on your hands before appearing in court.
    • Shave facial hair, or make sure all facial hair is neatly-trimmed and combed.
    • Apply deodorant, but avoid spraying colognes or perfumes, or applying scented after-shave products or body lotions, as this can also be distracting. 

Mistake #4: Concealing Accessories

Concealing accessories and a lack of eye contact can signify a lack of respect or sincerity to a Judge. Sunglasses, hats of any kind (baseball caps, top hats, winter stocking caps, “beanies”, cowboy hats, etc…), along with hoods, and heavy jackets should not be worn in a courtroom. 

Don’t wear any head gear (such as, baseball caps, headphones, bluetooth pieces, etc…) before appearing in court.  That way, your hair will stay neat for court and you won’t have to worry about remembering to take anything off before entering the courtroom.

However, if the weather necessitates it, make sure that all hats, earmuffs, sunglasses, hoods, etc… are removed and properly put away before entering the Courtroom. 

Mistake #5: “Flashy” Accessories

Make-up, jewelry, body piercings, shoes, tattoos, colors, electronics, phones, food and beverages, chewing gum, e-cigarettes, pocket change, extravagant purses, etc… can all be distracting in a court room. In addition, wearing political buttons, club pins, college rings, expensive jewelry, designer handbags, etc… can all trigger prejudice or bias. 

As for your Court attire, aim for a conservative and neutral look.  Facial make-up should be modest, and stick with neutral tones and light colors.  Avoid bright, bold or flashy colors and patterns. Instead, stick with solid colors of white, navy, gray, and the like to be taken more seriously.  Although tattoos and body piercings are more common today, temporarily remove any facial piercings and cover all tattoos as much as possible when in Court.

Mistake #6: Distracting Accessories

Next, limit unnecessary noise. Avoid wearing large chains, cufflinks, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings to Court.  Don’t have loose change and/or multiple keys in your pocket that bang against each other and jingle when you walk. 

Leaving your cell phone on vibrate is often still audible in a quiet Courtroom.  Therefore, put your cell phone on “silent” mode or off and make sure that it’s put away when you’re in court.

Also, you can’t drink, eat, or smoke in the Courtroom.  This includes the use of e-cigarettes and chewing bubble gum.

Lastly, minimize disorganization and distraction. Court documents should be neatly organized and properly filed. 

For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page.  If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page.  For Court rules, please click here.

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mndivorcelawyer

Hello. I'm Matt Majeski. I'm a divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In 2009, I founded Majeski Law, LLC. Equipped with a degree in Law & Psychology, I decided to focus my law practice solely on divorce and family law matters. Although I serve individuals throughout the state of Minnesota, most of my clients live in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Chisago county. I've been Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Ramsey County Bar Association since 2014. In addition, I've been an active member of the Minnesota State, Ramsey County, and Washington County Bar Association since 2009, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts since 2012. Besides volunteering at the Washington County Legal Advice Clinic, through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) I've also been able to serve a number of individuals pro bono in several civil matters. When I'm not practicing law, my two daughters keep me busy running around, stepping on Legos, and playing computer games. In addition, those who know me on a personal level, know I have a deep appreciation for Star Wars and Tootsie-Rolls, and that I humor my wife's love for, The Packers.