Although we've all heard the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” it seems that our human instincts can't help but form opinions based on first impressions. When dressing for an upcoming child custody hearing, you should aim to make the best possible impression on the court. Proper dress will not only show proper decorum for the court, but it can also significantly influence a judge's perception of your parenting abilities.
Why Dress Up for Court?
Your clothing, facial expressions, body language, and grooming habits all send nonverbal cues to the judge about your parenting capabilities. Although you may not think that an outfit can signify so much, think about the last time you spoke to someone who was half-dressed or appeared disheveled. Would you trust them with your most prized possessions? Now think about the last time you interacted with someone who appeared put together and approachable; didn't they seem “more responsible”?
Not only can your clothes impact how the court views you, but it can also impact how you view yourself. When we dress up, we tend to feel more confident. Humble confidence is especially important to demonstrate at child custody hearings because it demonstrates to the court that you have nothing to hide. Confidence will also help you articulate your case calmly and concisely.
Finally, dressing appropriately for the court also informs the court that you understand the seriousness of the matter. Like all court proceedings, child custody hearings demand a certain level of decorum and respect. A judge may be more open to hearing your side if they feel that their time and efforts are also being respected.
But What Should I Wear?
Dress in a manner that shows respect for the court. Would you want your attorney to show up to court in flip-flops and a tank top? Although your attorney may be hired to advocate on your behalf, you must also show respect for yourself. Opt for business or business-casual attire as if you were attending an important job interview. If you are stuck on what to wear, don't overthink it. Men can opt for a suit or slacks and a nice shirt. Women can opt for a full suit, slacks, a nice blouse, or a conservative dress that is not distracting. It's important to also make sure that your clothing is clean and wrinkle-free so that you both look and feel put together.
Other Do's And Don'ts
Do be punctual. Make a serious effort to arrive at the courthouse early. Finding your courtroom can take longer than you may expect. For instance, parking may be difficult to find, the security line at the entrance could be longer that day, and you may need extra time to navigate the courthouse and find the courtroom where your hearing will take place. Don't be tardy. Being tardy will only undermine the court's opinion of how responsible you are.
Do make sure that you shower and are well-groomed. Clean hair, a well-kept beard, or a shaven face all show that you have respect for yourself and can manage your time. Don't show up like you just rolled out of bed. Why would the court think you could take care of your child if you cannot take care of yourself?
Do be polite and respectful of everyone you interact with, including your counsel, court staff, your ex-partner, and their counsel. Don't be rude. If you are quick to anger or snarky, the court may think that you have an anger problem.
New Jersey Child Custody Attorney
If you have an upcoming child custody hearing, you may be stressing about what to wear, how to act, and how to prepare. Fortunately, you don't have to prepare alone, and our compassionate Lento Law Firm Family Law Team can help you every step of the way. Contact us today for a consultation by calling (888) 535-3686 or by using our online contact form.