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I am low-income and am involved in a civil case. Is there a way to reduce or eliminate fees?



When a person wants to file a civil case, the court requires that person to pay a filing fee to start the legal process.   Also, a person who is a party to a case and wants to ask the court to do something by filing a "motion" or a "counterclaim" must also pay a fee.   In order to fully participate in a legal proceeding, courts often require payment of many different costs and fees.

In many situations, you can file your documents in court without payment or with a lower payment if you also file a "poverty affidavit."   A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you are low income and do not have enough money to pay the fees.   You will need to list your income, assets and dependents on the affidavit.   Once you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will only charge a small fraction of the normal fee to file most other documents in the same case.

You can complete a poverty affidavit at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, even if you are not represented by an attorney from Legal Aid.   If you need a poverty affidavit, go to any Legal Aid office during normal business hours (note recent changes) and request the form from the receptionist.   Be sure you also have the form notarized, which Legal Aid can do as well.   You will need photo identification to have the poverty affidavit notarized.

After you complete a poverty affidavit, you must take it to the clerk of courts where your case is being heard.   The poverty affidavit will only apply to that specific case.   If you have another case at the same or a later time, you will need a second poverty affidavit.   Also, in Ohio, the poverty affidavit allows you to file documents in a case without payment or with lesser payment but does not eliminate all fees.   At the end of the case, you might still be responsible for some fees such as court costs.

This article was written by Legal Aid attorney Anne Sweeney and appeared in The Alert: Volume 29, Issue 1. Click here to read the full issue.