Judging a Book by its Cover: What to wear to family court.

When you are faced with an angry bear, you make yourself look bigger but you do not approach or attack!


I do not know exactly what element of our CPS case worked in our favor or how our collective efforts came together to result in the return of my grandchildren. I do know, however, what steps we took and, if one of these helped us, it is possible that it could help others as well.

The first court appearance was only days after the children were removed. We had been blind sided. We felt as if the entire world was against us and that even those who knew us somehow saw us differently because of the storm that had been cast over our family. We knew everyone was judging us and still believed that our words, our character, our sincerity were what was to be judged.


We entered the first court room with tears in our eyes, dresses that we pulled from the back of our closet, and a nervous composure. My daughter, only 19 at the time, wore a nice black dress that was age appropriate in length but slightly showed a tattoo on her thigh. My shirt and skirt were spring colors with the top being a nice purple tank top and the skirt being long and flowy. We were jewelry that complimented our attire and, in any other situation, we felt as if we looked appropriate and respectable. Looking around at others, we could tell that we had at least tried to dress to impress but in the end, looking back, we fell short.

After much research, I looked back on our attire that day and found that, like most things in a CPS case, if only we had known then perhaps we could have made it out of the storm much sooner. Yet, again, it seems as if there are no stories of people making it out. Few tips are available. Most of what I found was related to general family court and not CPS cases. I spent days before the next scheduled court which was months later researching appearances in court. One statement that I recall from all of the research opened up my eyes and made me aware of the severity of this choice.

While I cannot recall the exact statement or location, the primary concept was that we dress to impress for first dates, job interviews, and family photos. We dress to be judged in all areas of life except for the one time that we are ACTUALLY BEING JUDGED!!!

At this point in the court case, we had already secured a private attorney for my daughter and spent countless dollars at supervised visits. Our budget was beginning to laugh at us as we desperately tried to hold on to our home and our future plans with the children. But we took this advice seriously. We would not walk into that court room any less than ready to be judged.

We looked at color schemes, suggested lengths, hair styles, shoe recommendations, and even make up tips and off we went to the mall. Please keep in mind that my daughter, at this point, is 20 but I saw a transformation in her age beyond the months of victimization at the hands of the system. This aged her spirit. This aged her self-identity. This aged her very confidence. This is where the system messed up. It gave her just enough time to get gain a strength that I have never seen before.

She did not look for attire that showed her youthful spirit but rather attire that showed her dedication to her children and respect for the power that the court had over her. Please note, respect for the power of the court is not the same as respect for the system. You must recognize how much power these people have.

When you are faced with an angry bear, you make yourself look bigger but you do not approach or attack!

No open toe shoes.

No patterns.

Do not wear all black.

Do not wear jewelry other than a wedding band.

No heels over 3 inches.

No tank tops.

No shorts or capris.

Avoid pockets that may cause fidgeting.

Minimal makeup (this is not a night club)

Hair neat and clean (again, not a night club)

Wear something to make you feel confident.

Wear something that makes you appear serious but approachable.

The next court date, we appeared in our thoroughly thought out attire. I wore grey slacks with a grey and white shirt accompanied by a long open sweater and black loafers (we even joked that we bought trouser socks). I felt the long sweater added a bit of confidence to the attire as grey borderlines on black and I did not want to go against this rule even slightly. Ashely wore a pant suit with a short blazer. An orange blouse with an attached tie offset the black of the suit. She wore boot heels that were 3 inches as she feels more confident in heels. All total, our new attire costs approximately $200 which may seem minimal unless you are caught in what seems to be an endless court battle.  With our confident attire, we made a few smiles to the workers and judge just before the DA announced a request for continuance which was granted. Three more weeks of waiting!

With our hearts crushed again, we returned home to continue to hurry up and wait. Then it hit us. Three weeks was not enough time for the judge to forget what we wore and so we had to consider another similar outfit. We wondered what was the point. It was clear that this was going to continue no matter what we did. Our hearts sank and our wallets plummeted. But we pulled ourselves up again. The judge had spoken harshly to the abusive father in the case who had worn all black from shoes to tie but had smiled at us as we entered and exited the court room.

Maybe, just maybe, our research was helping!

We returned to the mall. Literally, we were on our phones checking the balance on each card and determining which one we should swipe for which items as no card could cover the costs entirely. We decided that we could reuse the pant suit and pants from the previous dates but purchased new shirts. Ashley selected a pastel shirt while I opted for a black and grey shirt with a minimal pattern to offset the colors. The shoes remained the same. We had our hair cut and (with a box from Walmart) made certain that the color was as close to our natural color as possible. We put on a touch of foundation and powder to smooth our complexion and used chapstick to create a clean complexion. We entered the court room on April 13, 2017 with both fear and confidence. Then, as the long day came to a close, the sweetest words that could ever be spoken in such a case echoed across the court room and my daughter and I were dismissed from the case. An MDT meeting was scheduled to arrange for the return of the children (I will discuss this meeting in a later post).


Again, I do not know what worked for us. People always asked how we made it out without an improvement period or years of services. The answer is that we do not know. What I do know is that we researched everything and often came up with more questions than answers so we decided to put together what we did in hopes that someone else who is searching, researching, and praying their way through this situation will have a bit more guidance than we found along our way.


Every detail matters when every detailed is judged!





Author: smudgesonmymirror

A dynamic mother/daughter duo that has overcome obstacles and chosen to embrace our experiences rather than to change our view of ourselves. Lovingly labeled by Gigi or Mommy, the tone and messages in each post will reflect generational viewpoints and family continuances.

4 thoughts on “Judging a Book by its Cover: What to wear to family court.”

  1. I believe trying to impress CPS will likely have the opposite effect. Child abuse horror stories frequently come from settings where everything was contrived to look perfect (day care, foster care etc.) When we went to court, I was in regular clothes and my child in his school uniform, so that no one – CPS, judge, lawyers – could forget that this is an intrusion into family life and I, not they, am in charge of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. There is also a post about not trying to impress them. However, studies have been conducted to compare outcomes based on these ideas so we used every thing that we could. I believe that the judge is fully aware of the intrusion into family life. The sincerity in your reaction and how serious you take the case, I believe, aids in the outcome. Thank you for adding your take. Whatever works is the goal here! Here is the other post on attire. https://smudgesonmymirror.wordpress.com/2017/09/06/you-cannot-impress-cps-with-expensive-clothes-in-fact-you-may-make-your-case-worse/


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