How Do I Waive Filing Fees in the Supreme Court?
Since 2015, the court no longer uses the term indigent or impoverished to refer to people who apply to waive fees. Rule 20-5 of the Supreme Court Family Rules now refers to persons who are not required to pay fees.
The Supreme Court registry usually charges fees for a whole host of common court activities, such as for filing court forms and making applications to a judge. 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 waive all or some of these fees for all or part of a court proceeding if the court is satisfied that you cannot afford them. You must make an application for a finding that you cannot afford the filing fees. This used to be called "applying for indigent status" or "applying for impoverished status".
Making the application
Most people apply to waive filing fees at the same time that they're filing their Notice of Family Claim, or a Response to Family Claim or Counterclaim. The point, of course, is to avoid the fees that you'd normally pay to file these documents. You can also apply in the middle of a court proceeding if you need to.
The court registry 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 to waive fees.
When your application is called, you'll have to explain to the master 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 evidence 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 to waive fees. More importantly, even if you are broke, Rule 20-5(1) sets out three specific grounds for the court to refuse your application:
- if your claim is unreasonable, or if your defence to the claimant's claim is unreasonable,
- if your claim is "scandalous, frivolous or vexatious," or
- 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 or sue their neighbour every time they play their music too loudly, you can expect that your application to waive fees will be turfed. If your claim is legitimate and well-founded, and you meet the general criteria for Rule 20-5, you should expect to get the order to waive fees.
For more information
You can find more information about Supreme Court procedure and filing fees in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Megan Ellis, QC, June 10, 2019.|
|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.|
Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court" and "Supreme Court of Canada."
A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a court proceeding. Small Claims Court, for example, cannot deal with claims larger than $25,000, and Family Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."
Being flat broke. Persons with limited or no income used to apply to the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal for indigent status, which exempts them from paying the usual court fees for all or a part of a court proceeding. The terms indigent or impoverished are no longer used. The Rules for both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal now refer to applications that fees are waived or not payable.
In law, to give up a right or entitlement; to give up the opportunity to assert a right or enforce an entitlement. See "release."
A 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.
A person appointed by the federal or provincial government 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, subject to appeal.
A 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.
A request to the court that it make a specific order, usually on an interim or temporary basis, also called a "chambers application" or a "motion." See also "interim application" and "relief."
A 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."
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which the respondent to a court proceeding sets out their reply to the claimant's claim and the grounds for their reply. See "action," claim," "Notice of Family Claim" and "pleadings."
A 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."
A 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 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."
Facts 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."
The assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding.
A 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.
The person who starts a court proceeding seeking an order for specific remedy or relief against another person, the respondent. See "action" and "respondent."
A mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration."