How Do I Apply for Indigent Status in the Supreme Court?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks


"Indigent" means being broke, flat broke.

The Supreme Court registryA central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched and reviewed; a courthouse. charges certain fees for a whole host of common court activities, such as for filing court forms and making applications to a judgeA person appointed by the federal or provincial governments to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, and are subject to appeal.. Some of these fees can be quite high and become a barrier to someone seeking access to the justice system. These fees are set out in Appendix C of the Supreme Court Family Rules.

Rule 20-5 allows the court to waiveIn law, to give up a right or entitlement; to give up the opportunity to assert a right or enforce an entitlement. See "release." all or some of these fees for all or part of a court proceedingA legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit" or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order. if the court is satisfied that you are indigentBeing flat broke. Persons with limited or no income may apply to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal for ''indigent status'', which will exempt them from paying the usual court fees for all or a part of a court proceeding.. You must make an application for a finding that you are indigent.

Making the application

Most people apply for indigent status at the same time that they're filing their Notice of Family ClaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules to begin a court proceeding, setting out the relief claimed by the claimant and the grounds on which that relief is claimed. See "action," "claim," "claimant," "pleadings" and "relief.", or a Response to Family ClaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which the respondent to a court proceeding sets out his or her reply to the claimant's claim and the grounds for his or her reply. See "action," claim," "Notice of Family Claim" and "pleadings." or CounterclaimA legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which a respondent sets out a claim for a specific remedy or relief against a claimant. See "Notice of Family Claim" and "Response to Family Claim.". The point, of course, is to avoid the fees that you'd normally pay to file these documents. You can also apply for indigent status in the middle of a court proceeding if you need to.

The court registryA central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed. will has blanks of the forms you need to fill out. The forms are also available online; see the Supreme Court Forms section. You'll need a Requisition in Form F17 and an Affidavit in Form F86. The Affidavit will require you to describe the amount and sources of your income, your monthly expenses, your job skills and your education.

If you file your materials before 10:00am, the registry will likely send you before a judge that morning, otherwise you may have to wait for the next day chambers is held. You do not have to give notice to the other side of your intention to make this application, and no fees are charged to apply for indigent status.

When your application is called, you'll have to explain to the masterA provincially-appointed judicial official with limited jurisdiction usually charged with making decisions before and after final judgment in a court proceeding, including the hearing of interim applications, the assessment of lawyers' bills and the settling of bills of cost. See "interim application," "judge," and "jurisdiction." or judge why it is that you can't afford the court fees. Living on welfare, Employment Insurance, Old Age Security or CPP benefits is usually enough. It will be helpful if you can provide copies of your welfare statements, EI statements or other evidenceFacts or proof of facts presented to a judge at a hearing or trial. Evidence can be given through the oral testimony of witnesses, in writing as business records and other documents, or in the form of physical objects. Evidence must be admissible according to the rules of court and the rules of evidence. See "circumstantial evidence," "hearsay," and "testimony." to prove your income.

If the court allows your application, you can then go back to the registry and file your pleadings — and all future materials — free of charge. If the court doesn't allow your application, well, you'll have to pay and that's that.

Exceptions to the rule

It is important to know that the court has an unlimited discretion to grant or refuse applications for indigent status. More importantly, even if you are broke, Rule 20-5(1) sets out three specific grounds for the court to refuse your application:

  1. if your claimThe assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding. is unreasonable, or if your defenceA reply, a rebuttal, an answer to a court proceeding or an application; a statement as to why a particular claim or application should not succeed. to the claimantThe person who starts a court proceeding seeking an order for specific remedy or relief against another person, the respondent. See "action" and "respondent."'s claim is unreasonable,
  2. if your claim is "scandalous, frivolous or vexatious," or
  3. if your claim or your defence is, for any other reason, an "abuse of the process of the court."

In other words, if you're one of those people who sues the Queen, the Prime Minister, the Premier and the Attorney General every time they sue their neighbour for playing their music too loudly, you can expect that your application for indigent status will be turfed. If your claim is legitimate and well-founded, and you meet the general criteria for indigency, you should expect to be awarded indigent status.

For more information

You can find more information about Supreme Court procedure and filing fees in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court.


Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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