Waiver of Fees

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In most civil cases, you have to pay a fee to file a notice of appeal or other paper that starts the proceeding. If you are respondent in a proceeding in the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, in most cases, you will have to pay a fee when you file your first paper in that court. You may also have to pay other court fees in these proceedings, such as fees to prepare or get a copy of a clerk's transcript in an appeal or for the court to hold a deposit for a court reporter’s transcript. If you cannot afford the filing fee or other court costs, you may qualify to have these fees and costs waived by the court. This section gives you more information about asking the court for a fee waiver.

The California laws about fee waivers are in California Government Code sections 68630 through 68641

Asking for a fee waiver

If you are low income and cannot afford to pay the fee to file your court papers or other court fees, you can ask for a fee waiver.
There are 3 ways to qualify for a fee waiver:

  • If you are receiving public benefits, like Medi-Cal, food stamps, CalWorks, General Assistance, SSI, SSP, Tribal TANF, IHHS, or CAPI;
  • If your household income, before taxes, is less than the amounts listed on Form FW-001 in item 5b, or
  • If the court finds that you do not have enough income to pay for your household's basic needs AND the court fees.

To ask for a fee waiver
First, read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Appellate Court Fees (Form APP-015 / FW-015-INFO) and choose from the options below that best fit your situation:


For an appeal in a limited civil case (a civil case involving an amount that is $25,000 or less)

  1. If the superior court already granted you a fee waiver and it has not ended yet yet (fee waivers automatically end 60 days after the judgment), your fees for filing a notice of appeal and the costs for the clerk’s transcript are waived. Just give the appellate court a copy of your fee waiver order.
  2. If you did not have a fee waiver in the trial court, if the fee waiver already ended, or if you want to request that the court waive other fees, such as the fee for holding a deposit for a court reporter’s transcript, fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), reading the form very carefully.  Use the Instructions for FW-001 and/or video instructions as a guide.

    • If you are the appellant (the party appealing), file Form FW-001 with your Notice of Appeal.
    • If you are the respondent (a party other than the appellant) and you want the court to waive the fees for a copy of the clerk’s transcript or the fee for holding a deposit for a reporter’s transcript, file Form-FW-001 with your request for a copy of the clerk’s transcript or the reporter's transcript. If you want to waive the fees for a court hearing by telephone, file Form FW-001 when the fee for this telephone hearing is due.

For an appeal in an unlimited civil case (such as a civil case involving an amount over $25,000 or a family law case)

  1. If you are the appellant (the party appealing), fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), reading the form very carefully. Use the Instructions for FW-001 and/or this instructional video as a guide. Turn in Form FW-001 with your Notice of Appeal.
  2. If you are the respondent (a party other than the appellant) and

    • You got a fee waiver from the trial court that has not ended yet, your costs for the clerk's transcript are already waived. Just give the appellate court a copy of your fee waiver order.
    • You did not have a fee waiver, it ended, or if you want to request that the court waive other fees, such as the fee for holding a deposit for a court reporter’s transcript, fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), reading the form very carefully and using the Instructions for FW-001 and/or this instructional video as a guide. Turn in Form FW-001 in the trial court with your request for a copy of the clerk's transcript.

If you want to waive the fees for a court hearing by telephone, turn in Form FW-001 to the Court of Appeal when the fee for this telephone hearing is due.

Remember: You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. So, on your forms, you must tell the truth, and your answers must be accurate and complete.

For a petition for a writ in a limited or unlimited civil case

  1. Fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), reading the form very carefully and using the Instructions for FW-001 as a guide. You can also view video instructions for FW-001 .
  2. File Form FW-001 with your petition for a writ in the superior court.

Remember: You must sign your request for a fee waiver under penalty of perjury. So, on your forms, you must tell the truth, and your answers must be accurate and complete.

For a petition for review in the Supreme Court in a civil case (including family law)

  1. Fill out a Request to Waive Court Fees (Form FW-001), reading the form very carefully and using the Instructions for FW-001 as a guide. You can also view video instructions for FW-001 .
  2. File Form FW-001 with your petition for review in the Supreme Court.

If your fee waiver request is granted

If you qualify for a fee waiver, the appellate court will waive:

  • The filing fee for a:
    • Notice of appeal
    • Petition for a writ
    • Petition for review
    • The first document filed in the Court of Appeal by a party other than the party who filed the notice of appeal or petition 
  • Any court fee for having your oral argument by telephone.

The trial court will waive:

  • The appellant's cost for preparing, copying, and certifying the clerk's transcript, sending the original to the appellate court and a copy to you, and processing the deposit required under California Government Code section 68926.1;
  • The respondent's cost for getting a copy of the clerk's transcript; and
  • Any fees for making a transcript or copy of an official electronic recording under California Rule of Court 8.835.

When it grants a fee waiver, the trial court also may, but is not required to, waive other necessary court fees or expenses that are itemized in the fee waiver application, such as the fee for holding a deposit for a court reporter’s transcript.

Even if you qualify for a fee waiver, the court cannot waive the fees for preparing a reporter's transcript in a civil case because this is a fee charged by the reporter, not the court. There is a special fund called the "Transcript Reimbursement Fund" that may help you pay for your transcript. (See the Transcript Reimbursement Fund (TRF) information and Business and Professions Code sections 8030.2-8030.8 for more information.) If you cannot pay for a reporter's transcript, you can prepare a record of the oral proceedings in other ways. Click to find out how to prepare a record of oral proceedings.

Important: Even if your fees are waived at first, in some cases you may have to pay them back later. Go to "Paying back your fees" below to find out when you may have to pay your fees back.

If your fee waiver request is denied

Your fee waiver application may be denied for 1 of 3 reasons:

  • It is incomplete, or
  • From your application, the court decided you are not eligible for the fee waiver, or
  • The court has a substantial question about whether you are eligible for the fee waiver.

The judge will indicate the reason for denying your request on the court’s fee waiver order.
If your fee waiver is denied, you have 10 days from the date the order is mailed or personally delivered to you to:

  1. Pay your fees, or
  2. Do what the court ordered in the fee waiver order, like filing a new fee waiver request or providing additional information requested by the court.

If you do not do 1 of these 2 things within the 10 days and you are the appellant, your appeal may be dismissed.

If the court denies your fee waiver but sets a hearing
If the court wants more information to make a decision on your fee waiver, the court may set up a hearing date for you. The information about the hearing (like the date, time, and location) will be on the fee waiver order.

Make sure you go to that hearing. Bring with you any documents that the court tells you to bring. The court will tell you what documents it wants you to bring on the fee waiver order.

If you do not go to this court hearing, your fee waiver application will be denied and you will have to pay your fees in 10 days.

After Getting the Fee Waiver

Once you get a fee waiver, and as long as your financial situation remains the same, you do not have to do anything related to the fees. BUT if your finances improve or you can now afford to pay the court fees and costs, you have to tell the court within 5 days. Fill out a Notice to Court of Improved Financial Situation or Settlement (Form FW-010) and file it with the clerk of the court handling your case.

Also, you may get a Notice to Appear for Reconsideration of Fee Waiver (Form FW-011). This is a notice from the court to go to a hearing to reconsider your fee waiver. The court sends this notice if it thinks your financial situation may have changed or you are abusing the fee waiver. Make sure you go to this court date, or your fee waiver may be canceled and you may have to repay fees that were waived.

It is possible that you may have to pay the fees that were waived in some cases. See below for information on "Paying back waived fees" to find out more.

Fee waivers expire 60 days after the judgment or dismissal or after the case is finished in some other way. Waivers can also end if the court finds that you are no longer eligible for one.

Paying Back Waived Fees

In some cases, even if your fees are waived, you may have to pay them back later.

  • If your financial circumstances improve during your case, the court may order you to pay back any fees that were waived after your eligibility ended.
  • If the trial court waived your fees in a civil case and you settle with the other side for $10,000 or more, you will have to pay any waived fees. The court will put a lien on your settlement to pay these fees. And the court will not dismiss the case until the fees have been paid

Read the Information Sheet on Waiver of Appellate Court Fees (Form APP-015/FW-015-INFO).

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