When it comes to fighting for spousal or child support in a divorce hearing, covering the cost of an attorney is just the beginning. Family law and divorce attorney Daniel E. Clement says in his 25-plus years of practice, his clients have never failed to ask, “What do I wear?”
“While a judge in a divorce case is supposed to base his decision on the testimony or evidence presented, your demeanor and your personal appearance may affect the judge’s ultimate decision,” Clement says.
“How you are dressed could very well send messages to the judge which could potentially undermine your legal strategy.”
Here are six of his biggest fashion faux pas:
1. Ditch your tattered jeans. You’d probably prefer that the judge focuses on your argument rather than your dirt-splattered denim, so opt for business attire or whatever best suits your legal strategy. “I have a client who wears his work uniform to court because he thinks it subliminally signals to the judge that he is a ‘working man’ and not wealthy,” Clement says.
2. Keep yourself well-groomed. Don’t go nuts with cologne or makeup, but do keep yourself tidy. A judge isn’t likely to grant full custody to a parent who looks like they can barely keep their clothes ironed. “Your clothes should be clean and fit properly,” Clement says. “You have to be comfortable in the clothes with the statement they are making about you.”
3. Skip the designer duds. This sounds like a no-brainer, but Clement had to literally ask one client to undress when he turned up to a child support hearing wearing a tailored suit and a Rolex. “If the gist of your case is you are destitute and need support, don’t come to court dressed in the latest designer fashions with expensive accessories,” he says.
4. Leave your arm candy at home. If you want to look like a jerk, go ahead and bring along your hot new girlfriend or boyfriend for moral support. “Bringing your new ‘friend’ to divorce court just adds insult to injury,” Clement says. “If you need to bring someone to court to provide moral support, bring an extended, adult family member.”
5. Cover your ink. If you look like any of the regulars on “L.A. Ink,” Clement suggests covering up your tattoos for your hearing. “You do not want to draw attention to yourself or to look garish or cartoonish. You want to be taken seriously.”
6. Facial décor. When it comes to piercings, you’ve got to understand your audience. In a divorce hearing, the judge is the only one with the final say. “If you’re trusting a portion of your financial future to someone, wouldn’t you want them to empathise with you or relate to you? Most judges are white collar professionals. You’re not gonna see a judge with a nose ring.”
Here’s what you should wear
Family law attorney Spencer Williams offers this advice for dressing to impress:
For men: A nice button up shirt and slacks will do the trick. Adding a sports coat and/or tie is “optional and nice but not necessary,” Williams advises. In a pinch, a new and clean pair of dark jeans and a button-up or polo shirt will do.
For women: Stick with reasonable heels. “They don’t have to wear flats but watching someone in six inch heels wobble to and from the witness stand or even fall is not pretty,” he says. “Thigh high boots should be left at home. Stockings, if visible, should be traditional.”
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