There are fees to file most court papers. There is also a fee to serve a court case. These fees vary from county to county.
To find out the cost of filing court papers, contact your local circuit court clerk's office. To find the contact information for your local circuit clerk's office, visit the Illinois Courts' website.
If you sue someone and win, your court costs can become part of the judgment that the other party has to pay. If you file a lawsuit and lose, you may have to pay court costs and other fees to the other side.
If you cannot afford to pay a filing fee, you can complete the following steps to ask the judge to let you file for free:
1. Gather information
To fill out an Application for Waiver of Court Fees, you will need to provide:
- The amount of money you receive each month, including income, retirement benefits, and public benefits. This also includes money received by people who you support and who live with you.
- The amount of money you received in the past 12 months, including income, retirement benefits, and public benefits. This also includes money received by people who you support and who live with you.
- The number of people living with you who depend on you for financial support.
- Any property you own. You will need to list where the property is, whether you own it alone or with somebody else, and how much it is worth. You also will need information about your mortgage if you have one;
- The make and model of any cars you own;
- Any personal property that you own such as furniture, electronics, and clothes. List the amount that you could sell it for at a garage sale, not what you paid for it or how much it would cost to replace; and
- The name and number of that court case. If you are starting a new case, you don't need the case number.
If you receive public benefits, like SNAP or TANF, you might not have to fill out information about your money or property on the form. But it is best to have this information ready if you need it.
2. Fill out forms
The first step in getting your court fees waived is to fill out the following forms:
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees: This form has information about you and your money, property, and debts.
- Order for Waiver of Court Fees: This is the form the judge will fill out when a decision is made.
Make a copy of both the Application for Waiver of Court Fees and the Order for Waiver of Court Fees.
3. File your forms
Next, bring your forms to the circuit clerk in the county where your case is filed, or will be filed. If you already received court papers, the address of the courthouse should be on them. You can also find the courthouse address on this map of the circuit courts.
The circuit clerk will stamp your forms and keep the original Application for Waiver of Court Fees and put it in your court file. Keep the other copy for your records.
Note: Depending on where you live, you may be able to file online. Check your circuit clerk's website to see if online filing is an option.
4. Wait for a decision
The court will review your Application for Waiver of Court Fees and decide whether you have to pay the court fees. This might happen while you wait, or it could take as much as a week or two. Ask the circuit clerk how long it usually takes.
The court may ask you for more information than what is in your application. The court will notify you if so.
Once the judge makes a decision, they will sign the Order for Waiver of Court Fees. If it is approved, this is the document that allows you to file court papers for free.
If the judge approves your application, you will not have to pay for:
- Filing court papers. For example, a complaint, appearance, motions, and other papers;
- Serving your court papers on the other parties.
- Attending mandatory programs. For example, mediation, arbitration, counseling, evaluation, Focus on the Family, or similar programs;
- A translator or guardian ad litem; and
- Clerk certified court documents or transcriptions of court proceedings.
Keep with you a copy of the judge's order approving your application. You will need to show the order to the circuit clerk.
If your application has been denied, then you should be ready to pay all court costs. You can either pay by cash or money order. The clerk in most counties will not take personal checks. Some counties will also allow you to pay your fees by a credit or debit card or online. To find out how you can pay your fees, ask the circuit clerk.
The court may allow you to make installment payments. You will need to make this request to the judge assigned to your case. You can also ask the circuit clerk if they offer deferments or payment plans.