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Child custody: What you wear to court matters

When you filed for divorce in an Illinois court, you may have simply wanted to sign whatever documents you needed to sign so that you could leave the past behind and move on in life. However, as a parent, you knew there would be child custody issues to resolve. If that situation has prompted a need for litigation, then there are a few other things you should know, such as how important what you wear to court might be toward the outcome of your case. 

Like most parents, you probably use common sayings when teaching your kids about life. Perhaps you've told them not to "judge a book by its cover," meaning "don't judge people because of their appearance." While this sage advice might help your children become empathetic, compassionate adults, it can backfire if you take it to mean that it doesn't matter how you dress when you go to a job interview or enter a courtroom for proceedings. In fact, first impressions are typically made within seven seconds of meeting someone. 

Choose clothing that is non-threatening and non-distracting

When you go to court to try to convince the judge that your children would be better off living with you than your ex, it is not the time to wear an outfit that might distract from proceedings or cause someone to feel threatened in some way. In fact, it's best not to wear tee shirts or other attire that has images or sayings of any kind on it. 

It's also best to avoid plunging necklines or tight-fitting dresses if you're a woman. As a man, you'll want to make sure your pants come to your waist and that you use a belt, if needed. 

Neutral tones and business casual styles

The things you say or do in court will likely influence the judge's decisions. Your appearance may also have a significant impact on him or her, especially if you show up looking as if you don't care or are not taking proceedings seriously. 

Your safest bet is to opt for clothing that would be appropriate for a business meeting. Wearing conservative color tones such as navy blue, black or beige is better than bright, bold colors like red, purple or lime green. 

The judge wants to see that you are neat and clean as a parent

If you enter a courtroom for child custody proceedings wearing torn blue jeans, pajama pants or a faded, worn tee shirt, it is not likely to make a good impression on the judge. You'll want to present yourself in a neat, tidy fashion, which is why it's best to make sure your hair looks clean and that you don't overdo it with cosmetics or accessories. Think plain, simple, professional and put together. 

If you can't figure out what to wear to court

Child custody proceedings can be stressful. If you're upset or confused about what to wear to court, it's helpful to ask for help from someone who has experience in the matter. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who has navigated a divorce. You can also use online resources to learn more about the topic. Many courts have websites that list dress codes. Family law attorneys also often provide recommendations to their clients regarding what to wear to court.

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