When you have to make an appearance in any court, whether it is for a pre-trial motion, a custody hearing or your divorce, it can be a nerve-racking experience.

There are many things during the appearance that are complex legal matters that your attorney will address.  However, there are some basic things you can do that will help you. 

By the time you get to court you can’t change the facts that brought you there.  You do have control over how you look and how you act.  The way you dress and your overall demeanor in the courtroom will influence how you are perceived by the court.  How you are perceived by the court will have an impact on the result you get.

Dress for Success in Your  Case:

How you dress can be an extremely important part of a court appearance.  The dress code in court is pretty basic in nature and is really nothing to be intimidated by: dress professionally and conservatively.

No matter what your feelings are about having to be there (after all, who really WANTS to be in court?), the court deserves the respect of those who appear before it.  You should dress in a way that conveys respect for the situation.  After all, you are not going to a basketball game.  You are going before a decision-maker who can and will make a decision affecting your future.

A good reference point is to dress as if you were attending a formal business meeting such as a job interview at a bank.  For instance, a male attending his court appearance should wear a suit if they have one, but if not at minimum should wear some combination of a sweater, button down shirt and slacks.

Here are some more tips:

  • Dress conservatively.
  • Don’t try to make a fashion statement in the courtroom.
  • Don’t wear loud colors.
  • Don’t wear a hat, clothes with slogans, or short pants.
  • Wearing sun glasses in a courtroom is not a good idea.
  • Avoid flashy jewelery.

The Right Attitude for Your Raleigh Divorce:

Along with your dress, your overall attitude and demeanor at the courthouse in Raleigh is vital.  Here are some further tips:

  • Make sure to be on time.  When we show up on time for anything we are sending a message that we are taking that event seriously.  Traffic in downtown Raleigh is congested and parking can be difficult.  The address for the courthouse is: Wake County Courthouse, 316 Fayetteville Street, Raleigh 27601.  There are several parking decks, but the one at the corner of Davie and McDowell Street is easy to find.  I suggest planning on getting to the parking deck no later than 8:20am if your hearing starts at 9:00am.
  • Be professional and polite.  Resist outbursts of any kind, even if statements are made you do not agree with.  All of your actions will be closely scrutinized by the court and you need to act accordingly.
  • Don’t limit to being professional and polite to the courtroom,.  For example, do not talk about your case in the elevators.  Judges and court personnel use the same elevators.
  • Be prepared.  The court’s time is valuable.  Do not be disorganized.  Your lawyer should help you with this.  If yo do not have a lawyer, make sure to have copies of important documents and have an outline of what you plan to say.

Why does how you dress and how you act matter?  It’s human nature.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we give credibility to statements from those who act and look professionally.

Credibility is key in a courtroom.   Judges have to determine credibility of parties and witnesses and they will use the same common-sense approach that we all use.


Family law attorney Scott Allen handles cases every day and has over twenty-eight years of experience. If you have questions or need assistance call him at (919) 863-4183 or email at sallen@allenspence.com