How Do I Waive Filing Fees in the Supreme Court?

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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:

  1. if your claim is unreasonable, or if your defence to the claimant'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 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 Bill Murphy-Dyson, July 5, 2017.


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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