Divorce is expensive. Even starting to get divorced is expensive.
In Cook County, Illinois you are required to pay $ 388 to file a Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage. On the other side, in Cook County, you are required to pay $ 250 for an appearance if your spouse has filed a Petition For Dissolution Of Marriage.
The county court system in Illinois is not a charity. Illinois courts operate based on fees paid by the people who file pleadings and motions.
Those Illinois divorce court fees can be waived if your income meets certain minimum levels.
Every Illinois county court must provide an application to file as an indigent person which would allow all or some of the filing fees to be waived.
“The court shall provide, through the office of the clerk of the court, the application for waiver of court fees, costs, and charges to any person seeking to sue or defend an action who indicates an inability to pay the fees, costs, and charges of the action.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(c-5)
“An application for waiver of court fees, costs, and charges shall be in writing and signed by the applicant, or, if the applicant is a minor or an incompetent adult, by another person having knowledge of the facts.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(c)
“The contents of the application for waiver of court fees, costs, and charges, and the procedure for the decision of the applications, shall be established by Supreme Court Rule.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(c)
“Applicants shall use the “Application for Waiver of Court Fees” adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 298
That form, the Application for Waiver of Court Fees and the instructions to fill it out can be found here.
“The court shall either enter a ruling on the Application or set the Application for a hearing requiring the applicant to appear in person. The court may order the applicant to produce copies of specified documents in support of the Application at the hearing. The court’s ruling on an Application for Waiver of Court Fees shall be made according to standards set forth in 735 ILCS 5/5-105.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 298
Those “standards set forth in 735 ILCS 5/5-105” “shall include: (1) the applicant’s receipt of needs based governmental public benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI); Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD ); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or “food stamps”); General Assistance; Transitional Assistance; or State Children and Family Assistance;(2) the employment status of the applicant and amount of monthly income, if any;(3) income received from the applicant’s pension, Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, and other sources;(4) income received by the applicant from other household members;(5) the applicant’s monthly expenses, including rent, home mortgage, other mortgage, utilities, food, medical, vehicle, childcare, debts, child support, and other expenses; and(6) financial affidavits or other similar supporting documentation provided by the applicant showing that payment of the imposed fees, costs, and charges would result in substantial hardship to the applicant or the applicant’s family.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(c)
The “monthly income” the court looks at should be above the “available personal income [of] 125% or less of the current poverty level” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(b)(2)(ii)
The current poverty level as of the writing of this article is $ 12,880 for one person. The minimum wage in Chicago is $ 15/hour which would be $ 30,000/year if the minimum wage earner was working full time. So, if you are not disabled…you are going to have a hard time getting your fees waived just because of your income.
The court will review these factors after taking your testimony. Then the court will decide whether to waive all, some or none of the filing fees.
“If the court determines that the conditions for a full…waiver [of fees] are satisfied, it shall enter an order permitting the applicant to sue or defend without payment of assessments, costs or charges.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 298(b)
“If the court finds that the applicant is an indigent person, the court shall grant the applicant a full fees, costs, and charges waiver entitling him or her to sue or defend the action without payment of any of the fees, costs, and charges.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(b-1)
“If the court determines that the conditions for a partial assessment waiver under 735 ILCS 5/5-105(b)(2) are satisfied, it shall enter an order permitting the applicant to sue or defend after payment of a specified percentage of assessments, costs, or charges.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 298(b)
“If the Application is denied, the court shall enter an order to that effect specifying the reasons for the denial.” Ill. Sup. Ct. R. 298(b)
If the fee waiver is denied, you must pay the fees as ordered by the court on a date certain.
“If the application is denied or a partial fees, costs, and charges waiver is granted, the order shall state a date certain by which the necessary fees, costs, and charges must be paid.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(e)
You Won’t Miss A Deadline Because You Are Requesting Filing Fees Be Waived
“The defendant may make his or her appearance by filing a motion within the 30-day period, in which instance an answer or another appropriate motion shall be filed within the time the court directs in the order disposing of the motion. Ill. S. Ct. R. 181(a)
The request to waive fees will stop that clock and the appearance “shall be considered filed on the date the [fee waiver application] is presented.”
“The clerk of the court shall not refuse to accept and file any complaint, appearance, or other paper presented by the applicant if accompanied by an application for waiver of court fees, costs, and charges, and those papers shall be considered filed on the date the application is presented.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(e)
Getting Fees Waived If You Have A Divorce Attorney
You are not going to convince a judge that you are indigent if you have hired a private attorney for your divorce in advance. So, do not expect a lawyer to help you with your Application For Waiver Of Court Fees.
Furthermore, you will be signing an affidavit “showing that payment of the imposed fees, costs, and charges would result in substantial hardship to the applicant or the applicant’s family.”
If you later file another financial affidavit, as required in an Illinois divorce, which indicates you are not impoverished, you will have impeached yourself and none of your future testimony will be considered with full credibility.
Finally, the court will require you to pay the fees that you probably should have.
“If, before or at the time of final disposition of the case, the court obtains information, including information from the court file, suggesting that a person whose fees, costs, and charges were initially waived was not entitled to a full or partial waiver at the time of application, the court may require the person to appear at a court hearing by giving the applicant no less than 10 days’ written notice of the hearing and the specific reasons why the initial waiver might be reconsidered…If the court finds that the person was not initially entitled to any waiver, the person shall pay all fees, costs, and charges relating to the civil action, including any previously waived fees, costs, and charges.” 735 ILCS 5/5-105(f-5)
Whether your 298 Fee Petition gets granted or not…if you can afford a divorce attorney, hire one. The system is not set up to work either expeditiously or equitably (in my opinion) when an Illinois divorce litigant is not represented by counsel. Contact my Chicago, Illinois family law firm to learn more from an experienced Illinois Family law attorney.