Filing Court Papers for Free

Filing Court Papers for Free

Last updated: January 2013

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There is a fee to file most court papers. The fee depends on what kind of case you have and what you want to file. To find out how much the fees will be, you can contact your local Circuit Clerk's office.If you don’t have the money to pay the fees, you can fill out an application asking to file your forms for free. You must show that you cannot afford to pay the fees. You will need to answer questions about your income and what you own. If the judge approves your application, you will be able to file your forms for free.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.How much does it cost to file court papers? There is a fee to file most court papers. The fee depends on what kind of case you have and what you want to file. To find out how much the fees will be, you can contact your local Circuit Clerk's office. What if I can't pay the fees? If you don’t have the money to pay Clerk’s fees, you can fill out an application asking to file your forms for free. The judge must review and approve your application for you to file free of charge. Will I qualify to file my court papers free of charge? To file your papers for free, you have to show you cannot afford to pay the fees. You will need to answer questions about your income and what you own. The judge will use the federal poverty guidelines to decide. To see if you qualify, find the gross yearly income for the number of people living your household on the Federal Poverty Levels Chart. If your gross yearly income is 125% or less of the amount listed, your application may be approved.What information will I need for the fee waiver application? To fill out the fee waiver application, you will need to provide: Any income you have, other than from your job. If you are out of work, you must say whether you get public assistance or receive help from a friend or family member;The amount of income that you expect to have this year. Estimate the amount as best as you can;Your income for last year from all sources. If you filed a tax return for last year, your tax return should show your total income for the year;The names and ages of everyone living with you who depend on you for financial support. If someone other than a child is living with you and has a source of support, do not include them;Any type of property you own. You will need to list where the property is, whether you own it alone or with somebody else, and how much it is worth. You also need information about the mortgage; The make and model of any car you own;Any personal property that you own such as, furniture, electronics, and clothes. List the amount that you could sell it for at a garage sale, not what you paid for it or how much it would cost to replace; andIf you have filed one of these applications before, you may be required to give the name and number of that court case.What fees are waived? If the judge approves your application, you will not have to pay for:Filing court papers. For example, you will not have to pay to file a complaint, appearance, motions, and other papers;Serving your court papers on the other parties. Attending mandatory programs. For example, if the judge orders you to go to mediation, arbitration, counseling, evaluation, ”Focus on the Family,” or similar programs; A translator or guardian ad litem; andClerk certified court documents or transcriptions of court proceedings. It is a good idea to keep with you a copy of the judge's order approving your application. You will need to show the order to the Clerk. How do I file an application if I am suing someone? Once you have filled out your fee waiver application, you will need to have a judge review it. You can ask the Clerk which judge should review your application and how long you will need to wait for a decision. In some counties the Clerk will give it to the right judge for you. Make sure to ask the Clerk how you will be notified when the judge makes a decision about your application.How do I file an application if I am being sued? When you received court papers, you also received a summons. The summons lists important deadlines when you will need to appear in court or when you will need to file court papers. Sometimes, the summons lists a date that you must file your appearance and answer by. If so, you should fill out the fee waiver application and have it reviewed by a judge before the deadline. If the summons only lists a court date, you should fill out the application and have it reviewed by a judge before your court date. You can ask the Clerk which judge will need to review your application and how long you will need to wait for a decision. If your application is approved, you can then file your appearance and answer without being charged a fee. What if the judge will not waive the costs? If your application has been denied, then you should be ready to pay all court costs. You can either pay by cash or money order. The Clerk in most counties will not take personal checks. The court may allow you to make installment payments. You will need to make this request to the judge assigned to your case.Prepare Your Forms You will need to prepare the Fee Waiver form. You can find the online program for creating the forms in the "Forms/Letters" section of this guide.File Your Application If you are suing someone:Drop off your completed fee waiver application at the office of the chief judge for the division in which you are filing your case. For example, if you are filing a divorce, you must take your application to the chief judge of the Domestic Relations Division. If you do not know where the office of the chief judge is, go to the room where you are filing the papers and ask the Clerk;Ask when you should come back. Usually it will take a few days to two weeks;Come back when the judge, or her Clerk, tells you to pick up your application. If you are being sued by someone:Read the summons. Be sure to file your Application before your court date or the deadline to file your appearance and answer listed on the Summons;Take the application to the judge who has been assigned to your case. You can do this any time of day, but it is best to do it before 9:30 a.m.;Wait while the judge looks at your application and answer any questions the judge asks. If the application is approved, the judge will fill out the order, and you can file your appearance and answer immediately.If Your Application is Approved Make copies of your application and order and keep them with your other court forms. You will need these during the rest of your court process to prove that you don't have to pay any fees.

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