By James Jennings
When a case is prepared and ready to file the court will charge a filing fee. You can think of a filing fee as a state or federal tax that is levied to issue you a case number. The filing fee is collected for several purposes chiefly among those is the operation of the Clerk of the Court’s Office. While still some of the funds are deposited in the expedited child support and parenting time fund established pursuant to Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-412. For a complete understanding as to what the funds are used for see Ariz.Rev.Stat. §25-284.
Each county in Arizona sets its own fee for each type of case that is filed. For example Maricopa County charges a fee of $338 – as of the posting of this blog – to the Petitioner to initially file for divorce. While in Pima County court charges a $298 filing fee. (It begs the question, so why doesn’t everyone file in the cheapest county? Great question. Mainly because you would be filing in the wrong venue which could have some adverse affects on your case.) Still in some situations they charge nothing at all. An example of this would be to file an Order of Protection in a domestic violence situation.
Also, keep in mind that the bankruptcy court has it’s own filing fee schedule, this phenomenon is not limited to just the state court system, though I will mostly be writing about the state courts in this posting. To file for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy the Federal Court charges $335.
Filing Fee: Waivers and Deferrals
So what happens if you cannot afford the filing fee? Three hundred thirty-eight dollars is a lot of money to pony up to be sure. The good news is there is a system in place that address this issue. If you cannot afford the filing fee you can apply to have it either waived or deferred.
The law –Ariz.Rev.Stat.12-302 -has a set of guidelines built in to help the court and their customers figure out who qualifies and who doesn’t when determining if the fee is either waived, deferred, or paid in full.
In a nutshell the law looks at the income of just the filing party and how many dependents they support. It then takes into account the current poverty guidelines established by the Federal Government.
AJCA §5-206(E)(1) in part states:
The applicant has a gross income that as computed on a monthly basis is one hundred fifty per cent or less of the current poverty level established by the United States department of health and human services.
It goes on to further state some exceptions:The applicant’s income is considered to be sufficient, but the applicant provides proof of extraordinary expenses, including medical expenses, costs of care for elderly or disabled family members or other expenses that are deemed extraordinary, that reduce the applicant’s gross monthly income to at or below one hundred fifty per cent of the current poverty level established by the United States department of health and human services. Gross monthly income includes the applicant’s share of community property income.”
Also if you are receiving certain benefits like TANF or food stamps you may qualify as well.
“The temporary assistance for needy families program established by … the social security act ..”
The food stamp program …”
What is the Difference Between a Waiver and a Deferral?
A deferral means that you will be billed later. Depending on your income, number of dependents and other factors you may have to pay a down payment of either $10 or 25% of the filing fee up front. While in other situations you don’t have to pay anything at all up front to have your case filed. Then the court will set you up on a payment plan. A word of caution. When you get the bill from the court, don’t ignore it. They will send you to collections and take your tax returns until it is paid in full.
The income level table can be found at the Arizona Judicial Branch’s website if you have time to search for it, or you can just contact a representative at Discount Divorce and Bankruptcy for more information.
If you still cannot afford the payment plan the court set you up on you can appeal it. The court will review the appeal and make the appropriate determination on your ability to pay.
Now on the other-side of the coin a waiver is just that. The court waives your fee and you don’t have to pay anything. §5-206(F) says:
The court shall grant a waiver if the court finds that the applicant is permanently unable to pay or if the applicant establishes by affidavit, including supporting documentation, that the applicant is receiving benefits pursuant to the supplemental security income program (42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 through 1385).
In other words if your getting SSI there is a good chance they may waive your filing fee.
I should also mention that the Bankruptcy Court operates differently when it comes to waiver and deferrals. In most cases everyone qualifies for a deferral as long as they put down at least $50 on the date they file their case. <
So if you’re like many thousands of Arizonians that are financially challenged and you have to file for a divorce, bankruptcy, or whatever and cannot come up with the court’s filing fee then there is help.
I like what Bill Gates, business magnate and philanthropist said, “I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.” And this is exactly what the lawmakers did. They made a program to help those who have to file but are struggling to make it happen.
If you have any questions regarding a specific legal matter or legal strategy you should contact an attorney for legal advice. If you would like to get started on a family law or bankruptcy case call us today, 602-896-9020, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website at DiscountDivorcePro.com.