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Do you need to file papers in court but cannot afford the fees?

You might be able to reduce or avoid paying the filing fees up front with a “poverty affidavit” (or “affidavit of indigency”).  Courts generally require a fee whenever a person files a new case or asks the court to do something by filing a “motion” in a pending case or files a “counterclaim” in a pending case.

But if you have a low income, you might be able to file your documents in court without the payment or with a lower payment if you first file a “poverty affidavit.” A poverty affidavit is a written, sworn statement that you have a low income and do not have enough money to pay fees.

To see a sample poverty affidavit and instructions on how to fill it out, click here.

Once you fill out the poverty affidavit, you must have your signature notarized and file the completed affidavit in the court where your case is being heard.

After you file a poverty affidavit in a case, the clerk will either not charge you any money or will charge you much less to file other documents in the same case. Even though you do not have to pay the fees up front, you may still be responsible for the fees at the end of the case.

Most Ohio courts have their own affidavit forms for you to fill out. You can request these from the clerk at your local court.  Here are links to poverty affidavits forms for the courts that post the form online:

Cuyahoga County

Ashtabula County

Some courts, for example Cleveland Municipal Court, will accept a generic poverty affidavit.  You can download a blank poverty affidavit form here:


For additional information related to using a poverty affidavit to access the court system, click here to read an article from Legal Aid.

This information and the information provided on any court’s website cannot take the place of individual advice from a lawyer.  Each person’s situation is different.  You should contact a lawyer if you need legal representation or if you have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities.  

If you need further help, and plan to visit a Legal Aid Brief Advice Clinic - click here for upcoming clinic dates.  Remember to bring all the documents with you.  Attorneys will need the documents in order to advise you.

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