Having your court fees waived

What to do if you can’t afford to pay your court fees.

If you’re going to court in Ontario, you may have to pay fees to start a proceeding, file documents, schedule a hearing or enforce a judgment or order.

If you can’t afford to pay the fees in your case, you can ask the court to waive your fees so that you don’t have to pay. If you request a fee waiver, the court will look at your financial situation and decide whether you’re eligible. If your request is accepted, you will be given a certificate which you must show to court staff when you go to pay a fee.

You can use your fee waiver certificate only in the case or proceeding for which it was given to you, plus any enforcement related to that case. If you have multiple cases at once, or if your case is appealed, you will need to request a new fee waiver for each case.

Eligibility

You can request to have your court fees waived if:

  • you are involved, or will be involved, in a proceeding or case in family, civil or small claims court
  • you are not acting on behalf of a business or organization
  • your fees are not being paid by a lawyer under a contingency fee agreement

There are three primary ways to qualify for a fee waiver.

  1. Your gross annual household income and assets are less than:
    Fee waiver eligibility criteria – gross annual household income and assets
    Criteria Maximum amount
    Gross annual household income
    Gross annual household income is the total amount of money that all of the members of your household earn in a year, before taxes or deductions
    1 person in your household $24,000
    2 people in your household $36,000
    3 people in your household $42,000
    4 people in your household $50,400
    5 or more people in your household $58,800
    Household liquid assets
    Household liquid assets are any assets owned by the members of your household that are money or can readily be converted into money, such as stocks, bonds, RRSPs or GICs that are not locked in.
    $2,040
    Household net worth
    Household net worth is the value of all assets owned by the members of your household, minus the amount of all their debts and other financial liabilities.
    $8,160

OR

  1. Your main source of household income is one or more of the following:

OR

  1. You are receiving services from Legal Aid Ontario for this case.

If you don’t meet any of these requirements, but you don’t believe that you can afford to pay court fees, you can make a request to the court to have your financial situation evaluated by a judge.

If your financial situation changes, you can request a fee waiver again. There is never a charge to request a fee waiver.

When to request a fee waiver

Although you can request a fee waiver before, during or at the enforcement stage of your case, a fee waiver certificate can’t be used to refund court or enforcement fees that you’ve already paid.

To have any fee waived, you have to receive your fee waiver certificate beforehand and show it when you go to pay that fee.

Which fees cannot be waived

The fee waiver applies to fees that the court charges in civil, family and small claims matters, except for:

  • fees you pay to an individual who is independent of the court (e.g. lawyers, authorized court transcriptionists, official examiners, witnesses and mediators)
  • fees relating to criminal matters
  • fees paid to the sheriff or small claims court bailiff to enforce an order (unless the order was made under subsection 35(3) of the Tenant Protection Act, 1997)
  • the federal Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings fee
  • fees for serving documents
  • fees for bankruptcy proceedings under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act
  • costs that you are ordered to pay to another party

How to request a fee waiver

Step 1: Pick up the form

Depending on your situation, you will have to fill out one of several different forms. These forms can be picked up at your local courthouse, or printed at home using the links below.

If you think you meet the financial requirements, fill out form FW-A 3 - Fee Waiver Request to Registrar, Clerk or Sheriff.

If you don’t think you meet the financial requirements but think your fees should be waived, fill out form FW-A 4 - Fee Waiver Request to Court.

If you’re a litigation guardian or special party representative, fill out one of the following:

Step 2: Fill out the form

Here are some tips to help you when filling out your request form:

  • Make sure that all the personal information you give is complete and current. If your contact information changes, it’s your responsibility to update the court in writing.
  • If you already have a court file, include your file/claim number and the title of the proceeding or name of the case on the form.

Financial information

You will have to provide proof of your gross annual household income. This includes proof of income for your spouse, if you have one.

  • If you’re filling out form FW-A 3 - Fee Waiver Request to Registrar, Clerk or Sheriff or FW-A-6 - Fee Waiver Request to Registrar, Clerk or Sheriff by a Litigation Guardian for a Person Under Disability or a Person Representing a Special Party, you can submit any one of these three documents for each of you and your spouse:
    • an income tax return or notice of assessment for the most recent taxation year from the Canada Revenue Agency
    • the most recent statement of earnings from your employer showing total earnings paid this year including overtime or your three most recent pay stubs
    • the most recent statement of income showing income from employment insurance, social assistance, a pension, workers compensation or disability payments

    Indicate on the form which documents you have included. If you can’t provide any of these documents, explain why and continue to fill out the rest of the form, where you will write down your household’s income information instead.

    You don’t need to provide proof of income for any working members of your household aside from your spouse, but you must include their income when you calculate your gross annual household income on the request form.

  • If you’re filling out form FW-A 4 - Fee Waiver Request to Court or FW-A-7 - Fee Waiver Request to Court by a Litigation Guardian for a Person Under Disability or a Person Representing a Special, you have to fill out Exhibit A, where you will list the members of your household, give estimated income amounts, expenses and assets. For each piece of information you provide, make sure to attach a recent financial document (e.g. a tax return, pay stubs, T-4 slips, benefit statements), or receipt to support it.

    If there is any other information about your financial situation that you would like to give the court that wasn’t included in your request so far, use the space in question 5 of Exhibit A to write it down. Make sure to also attach financial documents that support any information you give in this part.

    With Exhibit B, you will also have to provide one of the following:

    • the first document you filed or will file in your case, which sets out your position in the case (e.g. statement of claim or application, statement of defence, answer)
    • a copy of the order you wish to enforce or continue enforcing, as appropriate

Step 3: Swear your affidavit

Once you’ve completed your fee waiver form, you have to swear or affirm that the information you’ve provided is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge. You can get your form sworn or affirmed at the court or enforcement office at no cost.

You can also have your form sworn or affirmed by a lawyer, notary public or someone else who is authorized to commission documents, although they may charge a fee for their service.

While your lawyer can commission your affidavit, you still have to be the one to swear or affirm that the information provided is true – they can’t do this on your behalf.

It is important to remember that it is a criminal offence to knowingly swear or affirm a false affidavit.

Step 4: Submit the form

You have to submit your form and all of the required documents either in person or by mail, to the court or the enforcement office where you will be paying a fee related to your court case or enforcement of order. The form can be submitted on its own or along with any court document that you wish to file. Your lawyer or agent can also submit your form for you. If necessary, you can also contact the court or enforcement office about other options available to submit your form.

Don’t forget that you must sign and swear or affirm the form before you submit your request.

Finding out if you qualified

For a request to staff

If you submit a request to staff in person at a court or enforcement office, staff will review and determine whether or not you are eligible on the spot. If you submit your request by mail, you will also receive your response by mail.

For a request to court

After you submit a request to court, your request will first be reviewed by staff to determine whether or not you are eligible. If you are not eligible, your request will then be presented to a judge. You will receive your order from a judge by mail.

Requesting a court interpreter

Once you’ve received a fee waiver certificate, if you or any of your witnesses need a court interpreter in a language other than English or French, you will also have to fill out form FW-A 5 - Request For Court Interpreter. You can fill out this form at any time during the court process.

This form is available to pick up at your local courthouse, or it can be printed at home from Ontario Court Forms.

To complete the form, you’ll need to give your name, contact information and court file number. If you need an interpreter for yourself, list the language you need interpretation to and from. If you need an interpreter for one or more of your witnesses, list the names of these witnesses, what language they need interpretation in, and when they are appearing in court.

This form can be submitted in person or by mail to the court office where you filed your fee waiver. If you need an interpreter for any witnesses, you must submit this form as soon as you find out your date and time of the court appearance when the interpreter will be required.

After you have submitted this request for an interpreter, if you become aware that an interpreter is not required for a court appearance, notify the court immediately to cancel the interpreter.

You will not need to pay for a court interpreter once you submit this form to the court. However, refunds cannot be given for any fees you paid for private court interpreter services before you filed this form with the court.