How do I apply?

There is a court form to ask the court to waive your costs. All state courts in Massachusetts have this form. This form is an Affidavit of Indigency. To apply:

  1. Get an Affidavit of Indigency at any state court house or online.
  2. Fill out the form and pick 1 of the 3 Categories that show the court why your income is too low to pay your court costs.
  3. Write down all the fees and charges you need the court to waive or pay for you. Include all the fees you can think of that might come up during your case.

    Example

    If you are filing a case in court and you need a waiver of the court filing fee, list this fee on the Affidavit of Indigency. If you also need a sheriff to serve the other party, or you need to publish a notice in the newspaper, write these costs on the form. If you do not know how much the costs will be, estimate them.

    If you need a waiver or payment of other court costs later on, like the cost of subpoenas of witnesses to hearings, or taking depositions of witnesses, file another Affidavit of Indigency then.

  4. Use the form to tell the court if you need an interpreter. Write down the language you need and tell the clerk.
  5. When you sign the Affidavit of Indigency, you swear that everything you put on the form is true, as far as you know.
  6. File your Affidavit of Indigency with the clerk at the court.

2. Pick 1 of the 3 Categories

Category (A)

You get one of the following:

  • Massachusetts Transitional Aid to Families With Dependent Children (TAFDC),
  • Massachusetts Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled & Children (EAEDC),
  • Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
  • MassHealth, or
  • Massachusetts Veterans Benefits.

If you pick Category A, the court should waive your costs.

Category (B)

If your income, after taxes, is 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or less, the court should waive your costs.

The court should have an up-to-date chart of the Federal Poverty Guidelines posted on a wall. If you cannot find it, ask the clerk for a copy. You can also find the chart online.

Your income includes any household income you can use.

The Federal government updates the Poverty Guideline every year.

Category (C)

Pick Category C if your income is too high for Category B, and paying court costs would mean you or people who depend on you would have to go without “the necessities of life,” like food, shelter and clothing.

If you pick Category (C), you must also complete the Supplement to Affidavit of Indigency form. You can get the Supplement at the court or online.

3. Fill in the costs and fees you need the court to waive or pay for

In Section ll and Section lll, list the costs you need the court to waive or pay. Almost all court cases have fees and costs like:

  • Filing Fees and surcharges: You can find filing fees for particular court cases on online
  • The cost of having a sheriff serve your complaint, or
  • the cost of publishing notice in the newspaper.
  • In many family law cases the court requires a parent education class that costs money.

If you do not know the cost of something you need for your case, list the service you need and estimate the cost. You can also ask the clerk at the court.

Note

The court can not pay for your lawyer.

If you check Category A or Category B and you do not fill in all the information about the costs, the court should still approve your application.

If you need the court to waive other court costs later on in your case, like the cost of subpoenas of witnesses to hearings, or depositions of witnesses, you will need to file another Affidavit of Indigency then.

For more information see Fees and Costs.

4. If you need an interpreter

Use the Affidavit of Indigency to tell the court you need an interpreter and the language you need the interpeter to speak. You have a right to an interpreter at court.

5. Sign

Remember: your signature says that you swear that everything you put on the form is true, as far as you know.

6. File

File your Affidavit of Indigency with the clerk at the court where you are filing your case. 

What if the clerk of the court does not approve it right away?

The clerk should not ask you for more information like your pay stub or wefare card. If you checked the box next to Category A or Category B, and you filled out the form correctly, the clerk should approve your Affidavit of Indigency right away.

If you are asking the court to waive or pay extra fees than you may have to see a judge.

If the clerk does not approve the form right away, see What if the clerk does not approve my Affidavit of Indigency right away?

You can find the official court instructions for the Affidavit of Indigency on the court website.

These instructions and forms are based on documents that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued on March 5, 2003. All courts in Massachusetts use the Affidavit of Indigency.

What if the clerk will not approve my Affidavit of Indigency at all?

If the clerk does not approve your Affidavit of Indigency, he or she must send it to the judge to decide. 

The judge can:

  • approve your Affdiavit of Indigency,
  • order that you pay a partial fee, or
  • order that you pay the entire fee.

If you disagree with the judge, you can appeal to the next court level.

There are short deadlines, so you must act quickly. Consult the clerk's office for information about how to do this.

Produced by Merrimack Valley North-Shore Legal Services, Inc.
Last Updated September 2013

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