There are fees to file most court papers. There is also a fee to serve a court case. These fees vary from county to county.
To find out the cost of filing court papers, contact your local circuit court clerk's office. To find the contact information for your local circuit clerk's office, visit the Illinois Courts' website.
If you sue someone and win, your court costs can become part of the judgment that the other party has to pay. If you file a lawsuit and lose, you may have to pay court costs and other fees to the other side.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
1. Gather information
To fill out an Application for Waiver of Court Fees, you will need to provide:
- The amount of money you receive each month, including income, retirement benefits, and public benefits (including money received by people you support and who live with you).
- The amount of money you received in the past 12 months, including income, retirement benefits, and public benefits (including money received by people you support and who live with you).
- The number of people living with you who depend on you for financial support.
- Any property you own. You will need to list where the property is, whether you own it alone or with somebody else, and how much it is worth. You also will need information about your mortgage if you have one;
- The make and model of any cars you own;
- Any personal property that you own such as furniture, electronics, and clothes. List the amount that you could sell it for at a garage sale, not what you paid for it or how much it would cost to replace; and
- The name and number of that court case. If you are starting a new case, you don't need the case number.
If you receive public benefits, like SNAP or TANF, you might not have to fill out information about your money or property on the form. But it is best to have this information ready if you need it.
2. Fill out forms
The first step in getting your court fees waived is to fill out the following forms:
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees: This form has information about you and your money, property, and debts.
- Order for Waiver of Court Fees: This is the form the judge will fill out when a decision is made.
You can use our program to help you fill out the forms, or print out a copy of the application and order and fill them out by hand.
Make a copy of both the Application for Waiver of Court Fees and the Order for Waiver of Court Fees.
3. File your forms
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
When you file your forms with the clerk they become part of the case. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court.
- E-filing: The documents you want to file with the court have to be uploaded into the system. You will need to create an account. See E-filing Basics for details.
- Paper filing: If you are paper filing bring the forms to the clerk at the courthouse in the county where you are filing. Bring all your copies and the originals with you when you file. Ask the clerk to stamp all your forms. They will keep the original. Keep at least one copy for your records. See courthouse locations.
4. Wait for a decision
The court will review your Application for Waiver of Court Fees and decide whether you have to pay the court fees. This might happen while you wait, or it could take as much as a week or two. Ask the circuit clerk how long it usually takes.
The court may ask you for more information than what is in your application. The court will notify you if so.
Once the judge makes a decision, they will sign the Order for Waiver of Court Fees. If it is approved, this is the document that allows you to file court papers for free.
If the judge approves your application, you will not have to pay for:
- Filing court papers. For example, a complaint, appearance, motions, and other papers;
- Serving your court papers on the other parties.
- Attending mandatory programs. For example, mediation, arbitration, counseling, evaluation, Focus on the Family, or similar programs;
- A translator or guardian ad litem; and
- Clerk certified court documents or transcriptions of court proceedings.
Keep with you a copy of the judge's order approving your application. You will need to show the order to the circuit clerk.
If your application has been denied, then you should be ready to pay all court costs. You can either pay by cash or money order. The clerk in most counties will not take personal checks. Some counties will also allow you to pay your fees by a credit or debit card or online. To find out how you can pay your fees, ask the circuit clerk.
The court may allow you to make installment payments. You will need to make this request to the judge assigned to your case. You can also ask the circuit clerk if they offer deferments or payment plans.
Updated: January 2017