This may seem like a silly post, I mean, what to wear at a divorce trial? Can your really write a whole article on that? The short answer is yes, yes I can. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pretty crazy things worn in court and I realized that I do need to tell my client’s what to wear at trial.
Let”s back up a moment and talk about what divorce trial is in Minnesota. A divorce trial is a bench trial in Minnesota, meaning it’s not a jury trial only the Judge decides and hears the outcome. This is important to keep in mind because the jury will often look at the small things, haircuts, shoes, clothing, etc, much more critically than the Judge who has handled hundreds of these types of cases.
So, understanding that the Judge will make the decision you need to think about what most Judges are or what their values are. I think it’s a fair statement when I say most Minnesota Judges are conservative. I’m not talking about Republican or Democrat, but their general demeanor and outlook is not, usually an outlier. It’s mainstream, not flashy, subdued. That’s is what you want to for in your appearance.
What Not To Wear At Trial
Let’s look at what not to wear at trial first, I find that if you know what NOT to look like it may help understanding what to look like at trial.
- Earrings, take them out.
- Nose rings, For God’s sake take it out!
- Tongue piercings, see above.
- Flashy Belt Buckles, trial is not the place to wear your Trucker Girl Belt Buckle (as cool as that is).
- Cowboy boots, we are in Minnesota, not Texas, go for dress shoes.
- T-shirt, no witty sayings or smart-ass statements please.
- Flashy jewelry, that includes a flashy watch, necklace, rings & bracelet. You don’t want to impress the Judge with your $15,000 Rolex if you’re arguing you can’t pay spousal support.
- Nose Rings & tongue piercings, take them out.
- Short skirts, it’s court not a dance club.
- Low cut or too tight tops, you’re going to court not going on a date.
- Ultra high heels, go conservative not flashy.
- Flashy earrings & jewelry, your jewelry should not be a distraction to the Judge.
- Over the top handbag, if you’re trying to get alimony don’t bring a $1000 Coach bag to court.
While you might be thinking that this is common sense, I can say that everything listed, I’ve seen in my 17 years of family law practice. Understand that what you wear won’t be THE reason you lose the case, but you want to set yourself up to have your appearance be positive and not a distraction.
So, what do you wear? Here are a couple of examples that show a conservative, serious tone for court.
I get asked a lot, what about a suit and tie for men? I personally think that is overkill in today’s ultra-casual world. There are two industries that wear suits everyday in the normal world, one occupation is lawyer, the other is used car salesperson. If you’re not the lawyer on the case then you don’t want to be viewed as a used car salesperson.