I like to think of myself as being very open-minded and free of prejudices; not one to judge people by their outward appearances.  So I’m happy to go argue that you’re a great parent, regardless of the number of visible tattoos or facial piercings you have.  However, when you go into court, you need to keep something in mind:  the judge is probably going to be older and more conservative than you are.  While you don’t think the little diamond in your nose is a big deal, he might.  Judges have to make very important decisions about people’s lives based on very limited information.  An important part of that information is your appearance in the courtroom.  So, with that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to dress when you have a hearing, trial, or other appearance in front of a judge:

-Look as nice as you possibly can.  Court is one of the very few formal occasions left in our lives.  The judge is wearing a robe, and probably has a suit on under that.  So even if you go out to eat in jeans, and wear capri pants to church, this is one venue that has not loosened up the dress code.  Respect that, and dress up. 

-Solid, dark colors are best.  This is not the time to take a big fashion risk.

-No writing anywhere, on any item of clothing.  No T-shirts with slogans, no pants that say "Juicy" across the bottom.

-No hats indoors, unless you are a lady who is in the habit of wearing hats on formal occasions. 

-Men should wear at least dress pants and a shirt with a collar.  A dark suit is great if you have it;  a coat and tie is fine, and a shirt and tie are nice, too.  No jeans or shorts.  On your feet, no sneakers, sandals, or work boots.  This being Texas, cowboy boots are fine.

-Women should wear a dress or pants.  Think of dressing for a funeral versus dressing for a date.  So, nothing tight, low-cut, or short.  Skip big flashy jewelry.  And bring a jacket or sweater;  it’s cold in the courtroom.  No super-high heels, strappy sandals, or sneakers. 

-This one seems like a no-brainer, but I have to tell more and more clients these days to COVER UP ANY TATTOOS.  That includes ones on your ankles, wrists, and neck.  Wear a scarf or socks or something.  If all else fails, bridal shops sell flesh-colored patches to cover tattoos.  I’d rather the judge think you just had a lymph node removed than read "Born to be Bad" on your neck.

-Similarly, REMOVE ANY FACIAL PIERCINGS.  One earring in each ear for women is fine.  Men should NOT wear any earrings or other facial jewelry.  So the nose ring, the lip ring, the eyebrow peircing – they all have to go.  I’m sorry, but it’s only for a few hours.  And don’t try to cover up your eyebrow ring with a band-aid;  no one is fooled.  I don’t know what to tell you about guaged ear piercings.  Whether you leave them in or take them out, it’s going to look odd.  Just try to style your hair so your ears don’t show, I guess.

I hope this helps you the next time you have to go to court. You may think the lawyers or the judge are cramping your style, or inhibiting your self-expression, but remember:  these are your kids we’re talking about.  They’re worth it. 

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