Fee Waivers

In most cases, you have to pay a fee to file papers with the court. The fees are uniform in all 58 California counties (except for Riverside, San Bernardino and San Francisco counties, where fees may include a small surcharge related to local court construction needs).  Click for the Superior Court of California Statewide Civil Court Fee Schedule.  Also, courts have their fee schedules posted on their website. If you cannot afford the filing fee or other court costs, you may qualify to have these fees and costs waived by the court. This section gives you more information about asking the superior court for a fee waiver.

Click if you need a fee waiver for an appeal or a writ.

Asking for a fee waiver

If you are low-income and cannot afford to pay the fee to file your court papers, you can ask for a "fee waiver.”

There are 3 ways to qualify for a fee waiver:

  • If you are receiving public benefits, like Medi-Cal, Food Stamps (CalFresh), Cal-Works, General Assistance, SSI, SSP, Tribal TANF, IHHS or CAPI;
  • If your household income, before taxes, is less than the amounts listed on Form FW-001 in item 5b; OR
  • If the court finds that you do not have enough income to pay for your household's basic needs AND the court fees.

To ask for a fee waiver:

  1. Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO). (Available in Spanish and Tagalog.)
  2. Fill out the Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001) (Spanish and Tagalog), reading the form very carefully. Use the Instructions for FW-001 or Video Instructions for FW-001  as a guide. 
  3. Sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. So, on your forms, you must tell the truth, and your answers must be accurate and complete.
  4. Make 2 copies of your completed Form FW-001.
  5. Turn in your fee waiver forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your request for fee waiver.

If you already have an Order on Court Fee Waiver (Form FW-003 or Form FW-008), but now have additional fees that are not included in the order:

  1. Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO).
  2. Fill out a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Form FW-002), and the top of a blank Order on Court Fee Waiver (Form FW-003). Use the instructions for FW-002 and instructions for FW-003 as a guide. 
  3. Make 1 copy of your forms.
  4. Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your application for fee waiver.
  5. The rest of the process is the same as with your original fee waiver.

Remember: You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. So, on your forms, you must tell the truth, and your answers must be accurate and complete.

Fee waivers expire 60 days after your case is finished, either by a judgment, a dismissal, or in some other way. They can also end if the court finds that you are no longer eligible for the fee waiver.

If your fee waiver request is granted:

If you file a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001) and your request is granted, you will not have to pay fees for:

  • Filing papers in superior court (except for appeals in cases worth over $25,000);
  • Making and certifying copies;
  • Having the sheriff give notice;
  • Getting a court-appointed interpreter in small claims court;
  • Having a court hearing by telephone;
  • Giving notice and certificates;
  • Sending papers to another court department;
  • Having a court reporter (these daily fees are waived for the first 60 days following the grant of the fee waiver); or 
  • Preparing, copying, and certifying a clerk’s transcript on appeal and transmitting it to the appellate court and the party.

If you file a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Form FW-002) and the court grants your request, you will not have to pay fees for services the court determines to be necessary for your case. The fees that are waived will be checked off on Form FW-003 or Form FW-008. These may include 1 or more of the following:

  • Jury fees and expenses;
  • Fees for court-appointed experts;
  • Fees for a police officer to testify in court;
  • Court-appointed interpreter fees for a witness; or 
  • Other fees (read Form FW-001-INFO to see examples of the fees you can ask the court to waive). (Form FW-001-INFO is also available in Spanish and Tagalog.)

Important: Even if your fees are waived at first, there are some cases in which you may have to pay them back later. Click to find out when you may have to pay your fees back.

If your fee waiver request is denied

If your request is denied without a hearing
Your fee waiver application may be denied without a hearing for 1 of 2 reasons:

  • It is incomplete; or 
  • From your application, the court decided you are not eligible for the fee waiver.

The judge will check the reason for denying your request on page 2 of Form FW-003.

If your fee waiver is denied without a hearing, you have 10 days from the date in the Clerk's Certificate of Service (at the bottom of page 2 of Form FW-003 or attached to that form) to:

  1. Pay your fees;
  2. File a new request if the court found that your request was incomplete; OR
  3. Ask for a hearing to show the court more information.

Read item 4b on Form FW-003 carefully to find out what you need to do.

If you do not do 1 of these 3 things, the court will cancel the papers you filed with your fee waiver request and you can miss important deadlines or have to start your case all over.

To ask for a court hearing to bring more information after your fee waiver request is denied:

  1. Fill out a Request for Hearing About Court Fee Waiver Order (Form FW-006) and the top of Notice on Hearing about Court Fees (Form FW-007). Use the instructions for FW-006 and instructions for FW-007 as a guide.
  2. Make 1 copy of each form and turn them in to the clerk with the originals.
  3. The court will send you a completed Form FW-007, telling you when the court date is for your fee waiver hearing.

If you missed the deadline and filed your request for a hearing more than 10 days after your fee waiver application was denied, the court will deny your hearing request and say so on Form FW-007. If there is another reason why the court denies your hearing request, the court will write it in item 5c.

If the court asks for more information
If the court wants more information to make a decision on your fee waiver, the court will set up a hearing date for you. The information on the hearing will be on page 2 of Form FW-003, under item 4c.

Make sure you go to that hearing. Bring with you any documents that the court tells you to bring. The court will tell you what documents it wants you to bring right above the hearing date information.

If you do not go to this court hearing, your fee waiver application will be denied and you will have to pay your fees in 10 days.

If your request is denied after a hearing
If the court denies your fee waiver request after a hearing, your options depend on what the court orders. First, look at page 2 of the Order on Court Fee Waiver After Hearing (Form FW-008) to see what the court ordered.

  • If the court grants you a partial waiver of your fees and costs, you will still have to pay some of the fees, but not all. The court will tell what part of the fees are waived on page 2 of Form FW-008, item c. You must pay any other fees you owe within 10 days after the date in the Clerk's Certificate of Service (at the bottom of the form or attached to it). If you do not, the court will cancel the papers you filed.
  • If the court denies your request for a waiver, but allows you to pay some court fees and costs over time, the court will check items 5b(1) and 5b(2) at the top of page 2 of Form FW-008. On the form in these items, the court will tell you when you must start making the partial payments and how much you must pay each month. If you do not make those payments, or pay for any other fees and costs as they come due, the court may cancel the papers you filed.
  • If the court denies your request for a waiver and orders you to pay in full immediately, the court will check item 5b(1) at the top of page 2 of Form FW-008. You must pay your court fees within 10 days after the date in the Clerk’s Certificate of Service (at the bottom of the form or attached to it). If you do not pay, the court will cancel the papers you filed.

Remember: You must act quickly after you get that order if you want your case to move forward.

After Getting the Fee Waiver

Once you get a fee waiver, and as long as your financial situation remains the same, you do not have to do anything related to the fees. BUT if your finances improve or if you can now afford to pay the court fees and costs, you have to tell the court within 5 days. Fill out a Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (Form FW-010) and file it with the clerk.  Use the instructions for FW-010 as a guide.

Also, you may get a Notice to Appear for Reconsideration of Fee Waiver (Form FW-011). This is a notice from the court to go to a hearing to reconsider your fee waiver. The court sends this form if it thinks your financial situation may have changed. Make sure you go to this court date, or your fee waiver may be canceled.

It is possible that you may have to pay the fees that were waived in some cases. Find out more about paying waived fees back.

Fee waivers expire 60 days after the court issues a judgment or dismissal or finishes the case in some other way.

Waiving additional fees
If you are facing additional court fees that were not waived in your original order, you can request a waiver for these additional fees:

  1. Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs (Form FW-001-INFO).
  2. Fill out a Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Form FW-002) and the top of the Order on Court Fee Waiver (Form FW-003). Use the instructions for FW-002 and intructions for FW-003 as a guide.
  3. Make 1 copy of your forms.
  4. Turn in your forms to the clerk. The clerk will tell you how long it will take to process your application for fee waiver.
  5. The rest of the process is the same as with your original fee waiver.

Remember: You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. So, on your forms, you must tell the truth, and your answers must be accurate and complete.

Paying Waived Fees Back

In some cases, even if your fees are waived, you may have to pay them back later.  You may even have to pay the other side’s waived fees.

  • If your financial circumstances improve during your case, the court may order you to pay back any fees that were waived after your eligibility ended.
  • If the court asks you to provide proof for the information you wrote on your fee waiver request and you do not provide that proof, the court will cancel your fee waiver and you will have to pay back any fees and costs that were waived.
  • If you win your civil or small claims case, usually the court orders the other side to pay the fees. The court will not enter a satisfaction of judgment until those fees and costs are paid.
  • If you lose your civil or small claims case and the court orders you to pay the other side’s fees, you will have to pay those fees even if the other side had a fee waiver and did not actually pay the court fees.  The judgment against you in the case will not be satisfied (considered paid in full) until you pay back the waived fees of the other side.
  • If you have a civil case and you settle with the other side for $10,000 or more, you will have to pay any waived fees. The court will put a lien on your settlement to pay these fees. And the court will not dismiss the case until the fees have been paid.
  • If you get a judgment or child/spousal/partner/family support order in a family law case, the court may order you to pay all or part of your waived fees or the other person’s waived fees. If this happens, you have the right to ask for a court hearing to request that the court set aside (cancel) the order to pay the waived court fees and costs.

To ask for a court hearing in a family law case when you have been ordered to pay waived fees and costs:

  1. Request a hearing within 30 days from the date of service of the Order to Pay Waived Court Fees and Costs (Form FL-336). If you file in time, you will not have to pay the waived fees until the judge makes a decision after the hearing.
  2. Fill out a Notice of Motion (Form FL-301) or an Order to Show Cause (Form FL-300).
  3. Fill out an Application to Set Aside Order to Pay Waived Court Fees-Attachment (Form FL-337) and attach it to Form FL-301 or Form FL-300.
  4. Make 3 copies of your forms.
  5. Turn in your forms and copies to the clerk. The clerk will give you a date for the hearing.
  6. Have someone 18 or older, not you, serve the other person with 1 copy of the forms that the clerk returns to you AND include a blank Responsive Declaration to Request for Order (Form FL-320).
  7. Fill out a Proof of Personal Service (Form FL-330) or a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and file it with the clerk.
  8. Make sure you go to your hearing. If you do not go, your request will be denied and you will have to pay back the other side's waived fees and costs.

Laws and rules of court about fee waivers

The California laws about fee waivers are in the Government Code, sections 68630 through 68641.

The California Rules of Court also deal with fee waivers. For:

 

Fee Waiver Forms

You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you are not sure which forms to use, talk to a lawyer. Or get help from your court. Your court's self-help center, family law facilitator, and small claims legal advisor may be able to provide you more help with your fee waiver.

NOTE: All California courts use the same basic set of forms. But some courts have special, local forms, too. To see if you will need any special, local forms, contact your court clerk or check your court’s website. The forms may be posted on their site. If not, the site will list the address and phone number of your local courthouse.

 

Forms to ask for a fee waiver

To download a form (in PDF format), click on the form number in the table below.

Form Name

Form Number

Instructions

Information Sheet on Waiver of Superior Court Fees and Costs

FW-001-INFO

Information sheet only.

Request to Waive Court Fees

FW-001

Instructions for Form FW-001

Video instructions for FW-001

Order on Court Fee Waiver (Superior Court)

FW-003

Instructions for Form FW-003

 

Forms you may need later on in your case

To download a form (in PDF format), click on the form number in the table below.

Form Name

Form Number

Instructions

Request to Waive Additional Court Fees (Superior Court)

FW-002

Instructions for Form FW-002

Request for Hearing About Court Fee Waiver Order (Superior Court)

FW-006

Instructions for Form FW-006

Notice on Hearing About Court Fees FW-007 Instructions for Form FW-007

Order on Court Fee Waiver After Hearing (Superior Court)

FW-008

 

Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement

FW-010

Instructions for Form FW-010

Order on Court Fee Waiver After Reconsideration Hearing (Superior Court)

FW-012

Instructions for Form FW-012

Note: Fee waiver forms are for the court only, and some of them are confidential (it should say on the form itself). Do not have them served on the other side.

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