I was at Court for a hearing and it became apparent that there is a need to address prior courthouse attire. On one occasion, as I entered the courtyard after going through security, I noticed multiple people wearing pajama bottoms and slippers. That same day, I was waiting outside a courtroom for my hearing and a litigant came to check in with the Marshall wearing shorts and a tank top. The litigant was upset with the Marshall when he pointed out the sign and asked if she had something to coverup so she could enter the courtroom. On another occasion, I witnessed a woman with sufficient cleavage that others were pointing and looking as she passed. I think that each of these examples is clearly inappropriate for Court.
Whether you like it or not, people judge you by your first impression. Imagine if a Judge’s first impression of a litigant was of the person’s pajama bottoms or sweatpants. Remember, Judge’s see you before they speak to you. Although I do not think that any of the Judges on the Family Court bench would only consider appearance when making an Order, I think that appearance is one thing that the Judges may consider.
Take for example an allegation of unfitness by another parent. If the person who is allegedly unfit appears in Court wearing pajama bottoms, it may raise questions regarding fitness when someone cannot get themselves ready to attend Court, where presumably the most important decisions of a person’s life are ruled upon. Rather, it would seem more appropriate to put your best foot forward and present yourself in the best light.
These statements may make someone wonder whether or not a suit is needed. The answer to that question is that it not necessarily. Appropriate Court attire may consist of something as simply as khaki pants and a polo, but not pajama bottoms. Use discretion, think of being at the courthouse as being on a job interview. If you would not wear something to a job interview, do not wear it to Court.
Another tip, before your hearing consider going to the courthouse for a quick visit. In most cases, you can sit in the back of hearing. Although this may not seem necessary, it is very important especially if you are representing yourself. It ensures you know where you are going, where to stand, how the Judge runs the courtroom, to review the notices posted outside the courtroom, and to see how other litigants are dressed.