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I cannot afford my court fees.

Court Fees & Fee Waivers

The Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or Appeal Bond
Overview

Guide Overview

If you don't have enough money to pay the fees for going to court, you can fill out a form called a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs and give it to the court. This form may allow you to avoid paying the fees.

This guide includes the Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond, which you can use to ask a judge to waive court fees and fee waivers if you cannot afford them. Under the Texas Constitution, all courts are open even if you cannot afford to pay filing fees and court costs.

Use this form to get your filing fees waived if you need to file a civil case but cannot afford too.

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Common questions about Court Fees & Fee Waivers

When you file a court case, you must usually pay a “filing fee.” There may be other court fees depending on your case. For example, you may need to pay for copies or pay to have the other side served with court papers. If a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs is approved, you do not have to pay for any costs charged by the court. This includes costs for the issuance of service and citation, and copies.

Court fees vary by county. Contact the district clerk’s office in the county where you plan to file your court papers to learn the fees for your case. Look for the county's "fee schedule" to find out how much it costs to file court cases in your county.

If you don’t have enough money to pay the court fees, you can ask a judge to waive the fees.

Your fees should be waived if you can prove that any of the following are true:

  • You get government benefits because you are poor (for example, food stamps, TANF, Medicaid, SSI, or public housing).
  • You are represented by a free lawyer through a legal aid provider.
  • You applied for a lawyer through a legal aid provider and were financially eligible for legal aid services, but the legal aid provider could not take your case.
  • You do not have enough money to pay for your household’s basic needs and the court fees.

The clerk will review your Statement. The clerk may use the Federal Poverty Guidelines as a guide. If the clerk does not think you qualify for a fee waiver, the clerk will file a “contest” to ask a judge to decide. The other side could also file a contest.

If no one files a contest, the fees are waived.

If your court costs are waived, you do not have to pay for "any fee charged by the court or an officer of the court, including, but not limited to,

  • filing fees,
  • fees for issuance and service of process,
  • fees for copies,
  • fees for a court-appointed professional, and
  • fees charged by the clerk or court reporter for preparation of the appellate record."

See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 145(a).

No. The clerk must still let you file your case and have the other side served without making you pay.

You are not required to pay fees until (1) there is a hearing (you must be given 10 days' notice of the hearing) and (2) there is evidence presented and the court finds that you can afford to pay costs.

See Rule 145(f) Notice; Hearing; Requirements of Order.

If your Statement is contested, you must return to the courthouse for a hearing. You must bring proof of your income (such as a copy of your pay stub) and proof of your expenses to the hearing. You must also bring proof of any government benefits you get.

A judge will review your evidence at the hearing and listen to your testimony. The judge will then decide if you can afford the court fees.

Instructions & Forms

The Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond (also called a Statement or Fee Waiver for short) is a document that you submit to the court, which may help you avoid paying court fees.

If you cannot afford to pay the court fees, you can ask a judge to waive them by either filling out the Statement form or submitting a sworn document with the same information. If you are concerned about privacy, you can submit the latter, but it must be signed by a notary public.

The Statement form, also known as the Statement or Fee Waiver, lets the judge know that you are unable to pay the court fees. It is important to fill out the form completely with blue or black ink and sign it without leaving any blank spaces.

Keep in mind that this is a legal document, and by signing it, you are swearing that all the information provided is true and correct. So, make sure to provide accurate and complete information. When you sign this form, you are stating under penalty of perjury that the information in the form is true and correct. This means that it is a crime to lie in this form.

You must include complete and accurate information about:

  • any government benefits you get because you are poor;
  • your household income after taxes;
  • the people who depend on you for financial support; and
  • your expenses.

TexasLawHelp also offers an Online Guided version of this form. You can use it to generate a completed version of the Statement.

Checklist Steps

The caption information will be on the first page of the Statement. The caption information includes:

  • the cause number,
  • the party’s names,
  • the court, and
  • the county.

If the cause number is not already entered, the clerk will enter it for you when you turn in the document.

Write the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s names as they appear on your court document.

Next, fill in the court number and the county. Then, check the box next to the type of court you are in.

□ District Court
□ County Court
□ County Court at law
□ Justice Court
□ Probate Court

Section 1, page 2 is where you can fill in your contact information.

This form asks for your address. The other side may get a copy of this form. If you are worried about the other side knowing your address, you can submit a sworn document that does not list your address instead of this form. Call the Family Violence Legal Line at 800-374-4673 for free advice.

On Section 2, page 3, you will enter your dependents.

There is a space in this section to list any of your dependents. A dependent is anyone who relies on you for financial support. Typical examples are your children, your parents, or your spouse if they don’t work and pay for their living expenses.

Use initials only for children under age 18.

If you do not have any dependents, simply write “N/A” on the first line of this space.

Section 3, page 4 is where you will check the box telling the court whether you are represented by legal aid.

If you applied for legal aid representation and qualified for their services, this is a sign that you are unable to afford court costs. Learn more at Qualifying for Legal Aid. Eligibility for various legal aid programs is often based on the federal poverty guidelines.

You must attach a letter from the legal aid showing that you qualified for their services.

If you meet the financial eligibility criteria for legal aid, it does not necessarily mean that they can handle your case due to limited resources. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to include a letter from the legal aid organization as an attachment.

Section 4, page 5, is where you will check the box telling the court whether you receive public benefits.

Select each box that describes a public benefit you receive.” If you select “other,” you must describe the benefit you receive in the space next to that choice. You must also attach some proof of the benefit, such as an award letter.

If you get government benefits because you are poor, attach proof (such as a copy of an eligibility form or check) to your Statement.

Section 5, on pages 6 and 7, is where you will list all the ways you receive an income. Do not leave any spaces blank in this section. If you do not receive any income from a listed source, write “$0” in the amount space and “N/A” in the description space.

If you need more space to describe “other sources of income,” attach another page to the form with the description, and write “See attached Exhibit” in the space provided.

Section 6, page 8, is where you will list all your investments and property. Do not list the value of your household furnishings, clothing, tools of a trade, or personal effects.

The “value” of property means the amount it would sell for after subtracting the amount you still owe for it. The value is not the amount you paid for the property unless it would still sell for the same amount, and you don’t owe any money on it.

Sometimes it is hard to decide how much property would sell for. This is usually not a set amount, so you must estimate the amount based on how much a similar piece of property in your area would sell for. Here are some online resources you can use to decide the sale value of a piece of property:

  • For an automobile, you can enter your car’s information on KelleyBlueBook.com.
  • For real estate, you can look at the market value listed on your county’s appraisal district website.
  • For other properties, you can look at how much similar items are selling for on an auction site like ebay.com.

Section 7, page 9, is where you will list all your expenses. The court wants to know if you have any leftover income you can use to pay court fees after your other expenses are met. It is important not to leave spaces blank on this section. If you do not have an expense for a listed category, write “$0” in the amount space.

It is unlikely that you will have zero dollars for monthly expenses for many of these. Don’t leave an expense out just because you are having a tough time estimating the monthly amount.

Here are some tips if you are stuck:

  • If it is a yearly expense, instead of a monthly expense, divide the yearly amount by 12 to find the monthly amount.
  • If it is a one-time expense that you are still making credit payments on it, you can put your monthly payment as the monthly amount.
  • If it is an irregular expense, you can also add up the approximate yearly amount and divide by 12. For instance, let’s say you spend money on clothes, but you don’t buy clothes every month. Just add up the total amount you spent on clothes for the year, and divide by 12.

Section 8, page 10, is where you tell the court about other debts or financial difficulties that you were unable to explain in any of the sections above. You do not have to write anything in this section.

  • Sections 9, on page 10, is where you will tell the court that you are not able to pay court costs or the appeal bond. Put an “X” in the box that applies. Only select the second box if you are filing an appeal of a justice court decision.
    Declaration & Signature Options
  • Section 10, on Pages 11 through 13, is your declaration to the court. It also shows the two ways you can sign this document. You can sign this document by self-certifying that everything you put on this document is correct, or you can sign this document in front of a notary public.
  • Remember, you are swearing an oath that everything you say in this form is true.

If you want the judge to consider other facts, such as unusual medical expenses or family emergencies, attach a separate page with that information. Write “Exhibit: Additional Supporting Facts” at the top of the page. 

See section 8 of the statement on page 10.

Turn in your completed Statement or sworn document at the clerk’s office when you file your other court forms.

Forms Required

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