Court Fee Waivers

August 10, 2023


Judgment recovery is usually expensive. Worse yet, any money spent is at risk because there are never any guarantees that a judgment can be recovered. The judgment creditor must pay for judgment debtor examinations, and for every attempt to levy or garnish their judgment debtor’s available assets.

In most courts, fee waivers are available for indigent plaintiffs and defendants. Almost every court has a fee waiver eligibility guideline and worksheet, that must be completed and submitted to the court Clerk’s Office for potential approval.

This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer. Most courts have forms available for parties who claim they cannot afford to pay court-related expenses.

Often court fee expense waivers have other names, such as an Affidavit Of Substantial Hardship, or a Request to Waive Court Fees. When properly filled out, such fee waivers can save on some, however not all, court-related filing fees and expenses. Note that most court expense waivers do not help with the costs of serving court documents, attorney fees, etc.

Fee waivers, Affidavits Of Substantial Hardship, or other court-clerk fee-waiving requests, are most often claimed by defendants and judgment debtors. However in many states, nothing stops a plaintiff or creditor that is low on funds, from trying to get a court fee waiver approved.

Not every court allows fee waivers for creditors in post-judgment recovery procedures, so if you are the creditor, verify this with your court. Of course if your judgment debtor has assets, you can find a contingency judgment recovery solution where you do not pay for anything, and get half (or more) of whatever is recovered.

When someone signs an Affidavit Of Substantial Hardship, or some similar court document; they are claiming, affirming, and signing, that paying the court fees would be an exceptional burden to them. Each court has their own rules of court procedure, which define who can qualify for an exemption on paying court fees. The court will review each claim, and usually grants most fee exemption requests.

Usually, court fee exemption request forms include a means test, where you document why you cannot pay their fees. Usually, one must fill out a worksheet, and often there are rules on which fees can be waived, who qualifies, and usually there are other limitations. Some courts have different waiver forms, depending on what type of case, and most have a different fee waiver forms or procedures for Appeals court.

The worksheets on most court fee exemption forms are usually substantial. If possible, find the local fee waiver form or procedure on the internet, often on your court’s web site. Fill the form out from home, print two copies of the form, and bring them to the court after it is completed.

When the court grants a fee waiver, they have a lien on your judgment, so when money is recovered, the court expects to be paid back. (Government code 68637). If the recovery is more than $10K, the court may not allow the satisfaction of judgment until they are paid back.

Most court fee exemption forms state that if the court discovers that you could afford to pay a previously waived fee, they can charge you. If your financial condition improves, you must notify the court. In our current economy, I expect courts to become a lot pickier about which fees they will waive.

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