Filing Fee Waiver
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
- What is special about Rule 34?
- What is a filing fee?
- You mentioned other fees involved in a court case. Can I get those waived too?
- Am I eligible for the fee waiver?
- What forms will I need?
- How do I file a Motion for a Fee Waiver?
- What if I need legal help?
Washington state courts' General Rule 34 (GR 34) establishes who is eligible for a waiver of the filing fee to begin your civil case and other, mandatory charges.
Before Rule 34 was created in 2010, each court was free to come up with its own criteria for waiver of the filing fee. There was a lot of confusion. Now the same rule applies to courts statewide.
Some courts used to charge you a small fee to even file a fee waiver request. That is no longer allowed.
Different courts made different decisions on which fees and costs would be waived. Under GR 34, courts must waive ALL mandatory fees and costs.
Different courts used to have different definitions of who could get a waiver. Now ALL courts must use its definition of eligibility.
Most people must pay a filing fee ranging from $36 to $280 to start a family law case. The amount of the fee depends on the type of case and the county. (The filing fee for modifications in some counties is $36. The fee for filing a dissolution action in some counties is $200.)
If you cannot pay the filing fee or paying would be hard for you, you can ask the court to waive (not make you pay) the filing fee by filing a motion.
You can ask the court to waive other fees that are "a condition precedent to securing access to judicial relief." Those fees include, but are not limited to:
Family court facilitator surcharge
Judicial Trust Account surcharge
Domestic violence prevention surcharges
Mandatory family law orientation class fee
Any fee to have a required Family Law Facilitator review your final papers before presentation
Any ex parte presentation fee
*The court must waive any required fee. The state Supreme Court in Jafar v. Webb confirmed this.
Fees that are probably NOT waivable are fees for optional services, including, but not limited to:
Cost of photocopies
Cost of mediation
Guardian ad Litem (GAL) fees
You are eligible if you get the following assistance:
TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
HEN (Housing and Essential Needs)
Federal poverty-related veteran's benefits
Even if you do not get any of the above assistance, you are still eligible for a fee waiver if your income is at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. (The 2014 guidelines are at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm.)
Even if your household income is more than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, you are still eligible for the fee waiver if you have large regular basic living expenses that keep you from being able to pay the filing fee and other required charges.
Even if none of the above describes you, you may still want to file a fee waiver if there are other compelling circumstances in your case. Talk to a lawyer.
Our packet Filing a Motion for Waiver of Your Filing Fee has forms and instructions. That packet is good for all civil law cases except habeas corpus petitions. Domestic violence protection order petitions are free. They do not require a fee waiver.
If you want to have your fees waived right away, you will need to go to the courthouse. Once you finish filling out your forms, contact your Superior Court clerk or your facilitator (if your county has one) to find out how to get your papers to a judge for review and signing.
If you do not need the fee waiver right away, mail it to the court clerk. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can return a copy to you.
Apply online with CLEAR*Online - http://nwjustice.org/get-legal-help
- Call CLEAR at 1-888-201-1014
CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems.
Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:10 a.m. until 12:25 p.m. CLEAR works with a language line to provide callers with free interpreters as needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call
1-888-201-1014 using your preferred TTY or Video relay service.
- King County: Call 211 for information and referral to an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. You may also call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number, 1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide callers with free interpreters as needed. Deaf and hearing-impaired callers can call 1-800-833-6384 or 711 to get a free relay operator. They will then connect you with 211. You can also
get information on legal service providers in King County through 211's website: www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.
Persons 60 and Over: Persons 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income.
1. Basic living expenses" means the average monthly amount you spend for reasonable payments toward living costs, such as shelter, food, utilities, health care, transportation, clothing, loan payments, support payments, and court-imposed obligations. RCW 10.101.010(4)(d).
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of May 2014.
© 2014 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)