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The following are instructions for completing the Judicial Council fee waiver form, which is form number FW-001. During this video, we will refer to this form as the “fee waiver form”. You can find a blank copy of the form in our Court Forms Database that you can fill out and then print. You can also find an example of a completed version of the form in our database that you can print and then use as a reference.
If you qualify for a waiver, what does that get you? A fee waiver provides a number of benefits. When you file a petition for divorce, the filing fee is hundreds of dollars per person. If you want copies of court records, the court charges a fee. If you have a fee waiver, there are no filing fees or copying fees. There are other fees, including service of process fees, that the court and the sheriff won’t charge you if you have a fee waiver. If you want a more comprehensive list of the fees that can be waived, go to our Court Forms Data Base and look at the form numbered FW-001-INFO.
To get the waiver, you start by filling out the fee waiver form. This is a two-page form. Depending on your financial situation, you may have to fill out only part of the form.
If you are currently receiving public benefits under certain government programs, such as food stamps, Medi-Cal, or county relief, you will only have to fill out page one of the form.
If your household income is below a certain amount, then you will have to fill out all of page one, but only parts of page 2.
If you qualify for a fee waiver, the waiver will last until you obtain your divorce judgment and it will then expire. However, you can always apply for another waiver.
On page one of the fee waiver form, there are some boxes in the upper right-hand corner, below the word, “Confidential”. Leave the top box blank. In the box below that, type in the name of the county where you will be filing your fee waiver form and the address of the courthouse. Leave the “Case Number” box blank, unless you already have a case number. If the court previously issued you a case number, then put that number on the form. In the box that says, “Case Name”, type in the name of your case. For example, if you are filing for a divorce, the name of the case would be your name versus the name of your spouse, such as, “John Smith v. Mary Smith”.
Moving over to section #1, fill in your name, address, and telephone number. If you have a job, fill out section #2.
For section #3, we assume you do not have a lawyer. Type in the phrase, “in pro per” in section #3. This phrase means you do not have a lawyer.
In section #4, check the box for “Superior Court”.
In section #5, if you receive benefits from any of the public assistance programs listed in section #5, check the appropriate box. Then, date and sign the form at the bottom and you’re done.
If you do not receive benefits from any of the listed public assistance programs, look at the income chart in section 5(b). If your household income, before taxes, is below the amount in the chart for your size family, check box 5(b). Then, date and sign the form at the bottom. Then, complete only sections #7, 8, and 9 on page two. After you have completed sections #7, 8, and 9 on page two, you’re done.
If you do not receive benefits from any of the public assistance programs listed in section 5(a) and your household income exceeds the amounts listed in the chart in section 5(b), then check box 5(c) and also check the box in section 5(c) that asks to “waive all court fees and costs”. Date and sign the form. Then, fill out all of the sections on page two.
We have 58 counties in California and the various counties have different local rules and procedures. In some counties, all you need to submit to the court is the completed fee waiver form. However, many counties will require that you also submit another Judicial Council form known as, “Order on Court Fee Waiver”. This form goes by the number FW-003. Rather than go to the courthouse and find out you are missing a form, the safe approach is to fill out the FW-003 form and bring it with you to court. You can find the FW-003 in our Court Forms Database.
You don’t need to fill out very much of the FW-003. Fill in the name of the county and the address of the court in the box on the right-hand side of page 1 and fill in the name of the case. Then, fill out section #1 and put “in pro per” in section #2. Leave the rest of the form blank.
After you have completed your fee waiver form, make two copies. Take your fee waiver form and the copies, together with your FW-003 form, to the court clerk. Submit your fee waiver form and the FW-003 along with whatever additional documents you want to submit the court. For example, if you are applying for a fee waiver because you want to file a divorce petition, but don’t want to pay the filing fee, you will submit your fee waiver paperwork at the same time you file your divorce petition.
The court will review your fee waiver paperwork and make a decision as to whether or not your application will be granted. If you receive benefits under any of the listed public assistance programs or if the amount of your household income is below the amount in the chart in section #5, you will almost certainly be granted the fee waiver. If your household income is above the amounts in the chart, you may still be granted the waiver.
After you submit your fee waiver form, the court will issue an “Order on Court Fee Waiver”. The court will use the FW-003 form to issue this order. That form will tell you whether the court has granted the waiver or denied the waiver. If the court denies the waiver, the FW-003 will explain why the waiver was denied and it may give you an opportunity to submit additional information so the waiver can be granted. The FW-003 form may also tell you that the court needs more information before it can decide whether or not to grant your fee waiver application and a hearing has been scheduled at which time you can provide the additional information.
If your fee waiver application is denied, you will have 10 days in which to pay the court any filing fees that are due.
If the court fails to review and take action on your fee waiver application within 5 days after it was filed, your application can be granted by operation of law. This means it is automatically granted. If this happens, you will be notified by the court that your fee waiver has been granted and you will receive a form called, “Notice: Waiver of Court Fees”, which is form number FW-005.