It’s important to make good impressions in every facet of your life.  When something as life-affecting a child custody is being decided, being the picture of respect, good behavior, and all around excellent conduct is a very important factor that you must consider as you navigate through the family court system.

I have to be honest.  I’ve spent a great deal of time in family court when I dealt with my own situation and in an ongoing capacity as I continue to do research.  It’s safe to say that the number of people who show up to family court looking dirty, unkempt, and almost unpresentable for such events is surprising.  There is no expectation nor would I ever recommend that people need to show up to court in a $2,000 Armani suit.  Honestly, a minimum of cleanliness and decent dress is all that is required.  Still, I’ve seen torn-up jeans, dirty t-shirts, work attire, the shortest of skirts and the lowest of low-cut tops.  If you think that appropriate presentation doesn’t matter in court, you would be thinking incorrectly.  Dressing presentably is at the top of our “Must Do List.”

The “Must Do List”

  • You must dress appropriately.  It’s understood that people come from all sorts of different financial circumstances.  Find a nice, plain golf shirt and a pair of khakis.  A basic pair of shoes with dress socks.
  • Be clean.  Take a shower.  Shave or trim facial hair.  Fix your hair.
  • Remove unnecessary jewelry.  Of course it’s not fair to be judged based upon your appearance, but you are.  Take out the nose rings, the lip and eyebrow piercings, and the 57 earrings you’re wearing for a few hours so that court personnel can focus on the matter at hand and not be wondering how you managed to get through the metal detector at the front door.
  • Be on time.  Tardiness or worse – absence – is looked upon harshly by family court.
  • Have all necessary paperwork.  Have it at-the-ready, have it organized, and everything you anticipate presenting to the court as exhibits should be at your fingertips.
  • Be kind and courteous to all court personnel.
  • Listen!  And follow all instructions you are given.
  • Speak clearly.
  • Remain under self-control.  No matter the questions, no matter the lies you have to hear, no matter the false allegations you must address, no matter the ultimate outcome of the proceedings – you must keep a cool head and keep your wits about you.

The “Must Do Not Do List”

  • The opposite of anything on The Must Do List.

Seriously.  While these lists cannot account for everything that might be “judged” by family court personnel, these items and any you can think of that are not on the list have “an equal but opposite reaction” potential by those involved in your case.

The bottom line is that you need to be the best you can be in appearance, presentation, and demeanor at all times.  By doing so, you mitigate the possibility that the judge will be distracted from the most important matters at hand – child custody or child support – and have them focusing instead (negatively) on issues that really shouldn’t matter during the decision-making process.