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Fee Waivers in Court Cases
It costs money to go to court. Not just the cost of a lawyer or time spent away from your job. You must pay fees to start a court case, to file a motion, and sometimes to have a judgment entered in a case. If you can’t afford to pay the fees, you can ask the court to waive them.
Qualifying for a Fee Waiver
To qualify to have your fees waived, you must be poor or unable to pay the fees. If you get need-based public assistance you may qualify for a fee waiver.
If you don’t get public assistance, you must show the court you can’t afford the fees. You can do this by telling the court how much money you make and what your expenses are each month.
You must also be a “natural person” to qualify to have your fees waived. This means businesses, corporations, LLCs and other organizations can’t get fees waived – only people.
Requesting a Waiver
You have to tell the court you can’t afford to pay the fees in the case and ask for a waiver. To do that, you have to file a Waiver/Suspension of Fees and Costs with the court. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Fee Waiver to complete the affidavit, or you can download the form at the Supreme Court’s One Court of Justice website and fill it out yourself.
The affidavit must be signed by the person who needs the waiver. If the person who needs the waiver is under 18 or can’t sign because of a disability, someone who has personal knowledge of the facts must sign it. It must be signed in front of a notary or a court clerk. You will need photo identification to show the notary or clerk that you are the person signing. You may have to pay a fee for a notary.
The court will either grant or deny your request. You may have to wait a day for the review and decision so plan ahead. You can’t file your court documents until the waiver is signed by a judge or you pay the fee.
Costs & Fees Waived
If you qualify for a fee waiver, the fees required by the law are waived. These include:
Filing Fees to start a case, including the filing fee for divorces, custody cases, small claims and other civil cases
Petition for Adoption
Petition for Name Change
Petition for Emancipation
Ancillary Conservatorship or Ancillary Guardianship
Appeal to Circuit Court
Jury Demand Fee
Writs of Garnishment, Attachment, Execution, or Judgment Debtor Discovery Subpoena
Judgment and Order Entry Fee in a case in which the custody, parenting time or support of minor children is determined
Bench Warrant Costs for support violations
Fines for Contempt in support proceedings
Costs that are not waived include transcript fees, appeals, or stay bonds.
Reinstating Fees and Costs
If things change so that you can pay the fees before the case is over, the court might order they be reinstated. It might also order you to pay all the fees and costs that were once waived.
For example, if you’re unemployed when the case starts but you find a job while the case is going on, you might become able to pay the fees. If so, the court could order the fees that would apply in your case be reinstated, and that you pay the fees that had been waived.
Fee Waivers in Family Law Cases
If you qualify to have your fees waived in a family law case, such as a divorce, the court can order your spouse to pay court fees as part of a final order or judgment.
If Your Request is Denied
If the court denies your request for a fee waiver, you will have to pay the filing fees and costs in your case before you will be able to file your document. You may also have to pay other fees as your case continues.