What is an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees?
The Courts in Maine don't want to stop you from going to court just because you cannot afford to pay the court fees. So you can ask the Court to waive their fees. You do this by filing two extra forms with the Court when you file your court papers.
What fees can be waived?
In civil cases heard by a judge, there are four common types of fees which can be waived through this process. The filing fee is the amount of money you must pay the clerk to file your case. The amount varies by type of case and type of court. For example, most cases in Superior Court require a $150 fee, yet a divorce case in District Court requires a $120 fee. A service fee is the amount you pay to the sheriff to serve the papers on the opposing party. If you are filing a family law case which involves children, you will probably be charged a mediation fee of $160 (or $80 per party). An appeal fee is the amount of money you pay to appeal your case to a higher court. All these fees can be waived.
Who is eligible for a fee waiver?
If you cannot afford these fees, you may qualify for a fee waiver. The judge will review your two forms and then decide whether your income is too low to pay the fees and still pay for your basic needs.
If your only income is TANF, General Assistance, or SSI,, the Court should presume that you cannot pay fees. You should get a waiver. Contact Pine Tree Legal if you are denied.
How do I apply?
Get the forms from the clerk of your local District or Superior Court, or print the forms from our Court Forms for Fee Waivers page.
How do I fill out the forms?
Form #1: Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees
Read the form carefully as you fill it out. When you sign it, you are agreeing to its terms.
Complete the beginning section (called "the caption") as it appears on your court Complaint form. Check the box to indicate whether you are the Plaintiff or the Defendant.
Check the boxes for whichever fees you want waived. If you are not sure whether you will need all of them waived, check them all.
In most cases, it is least expensive and effective to have the court papers "served by mail." But if you have special reasons why this would not work in your case, you can state your reasons on the next line. (This would mean that a law enforcement officer would "serve" the court papers instead of them being served by mail).
Date and sign the form. Then print your address and telephone number (if you have one) in the blanks provided.
Leave the bottom part of the page blank below the word "ORDER." The judge will complete this.
Form #2: Supporting Affidavit
Read and complete the form carefully. When you sign it, you are swearing to it's truth.
Fill in the district, location and docket number (if you have one) of your court case. Fill in the names of the parties. You can copy all of this information from the court Complaint form or any earlier court paper filed in your case.
Check the box next to "My application to proceed without payment of fees."
Fill in your name, mailing address, date of birth, and relevant phone numbers. (If you are financially dependent on another person whose finances you will be disclosing on the form, include their name and information.)
Under the sections titled "Income" and "Assets," list all of your income and assets (worth more than $250). For each asset, indicate whether it is jointly owned and whether you owe money on it.
Then list your average monthly expenses, in the categories requested. Be sure to list all of your expenses. If you spend all of your income each month, or you are constantly in debt, then your total expenses are at least as much, or more than, your income. Your affidavit should reflect that. Don't forget expenses that are not listed, such as: transportation, school lunches, child care, clothing, household and school supplies.
List the number of children you support, either as members of your household or through child support payments. In the case of child support payments, list the total amount. Using the next row of check boxes, indicate the other people who live with you. Then indicate how much other members of your household contribute toward the household expenses.
Finally, you must sign the form in front of a notary public, lawyer, judge or court clerk. When you do that, you are swearing to its truth. (Leave the section at the bottom of the page blank; the Court will fill this out.)
What do I do with my completed forms?
After you have filled out these forms, bring them back to the court clerk along with your other court forms. The clerk will ask a judge to review them. You may or may not have to see the judge. The clerk will tell you what the judge decided.
What if my fee waiver is denied?
If the Court denies your request, even though you cannot pay the fees, contact your nearest Pine Tree Legal Assistance office right away. You have only 7 days to figure out what to do. After that, your court case will be dismissed. Remember that if your only income is TANF, general assistance, SSI, or from another need-based program and you are going to court in "good faith," the court must "presume" that you qualify for a fee waiver.
Updated September 2017