What Should I Wear to Court (and why does it matter)?

The clothes you wear say a lot about who you are. By simply observing a person’s clothing, consciously or unconsciously, we form impressions about that person’s attitude, lifestyle, social status, or even religion. The way you dress conveys a message, and when you are going to court, the message matters.

Regardless of whether you’re going to court as a party to a lawsuit, a witness, or an observer or supporter, you should dress appropriately for the occasion. It does not mean that you need to wear a suit and tie or a dress with pantyhose, but you should look clean and well groomed, as if, for example, you are going to a job interview.

For Family Court proceedings, your clothing and accessories should convey the message that you have respect for the court and the serious nature of the proceedings. We suggest that you avoid any flashy jewelry or accessories that may be distracting and any apparel that depicts crude language or images or that may be considered risqué or provocative such as clothing that reveals cleavage, mid-drift, or underwear. Muscle shirts, halter tops, flip-flops, and pajamas or leggings worn as pants are examples of clothing that should be avoided. You should not wear a hat or head covering to court unless you must do so for religious or medical reasons.

Depending on the nature of the legal proceedings, your attorney may make suggestions about the way s/he would like you to dress. For example, if you are a supporting parent or spouse who is claiming that you do not have sufficient money to pay child support or spousal support, your attorney may suggest that you downplay your wardrobe to be more conservative or casual. Similarly, if you are going to court seeking an increase in spousal support, your attorney may suggest that you avoid wearing expensive clothing and jewelry that may give the impression that you have an abundance of discretionary funds at your disposal.

Your attorney may not be the first person you think of asking for fashion advice, but if you have concerns about what to wear to court, your attorney is the best person to answer that question.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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