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This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

Court Fee Waivers It is now less expensive for low-income earners in Ontario to access the courts. There is a procedure in place to waive most fees in civil, small claims court proceedings and family law cases. Access to justice will not be denied based simply on the lack of financial resources to start or pursue a legal action.


Legal proceedings can involve significant costs. For example, if a person lends a friend $500 and the friend does not repay the loan, the lenders legal remedy is to sue in Small Claims Court. The fee to file the claim is $75 and the fee for fixing a date for trial another $100. If judgement is obtained, it costs the lender another $100 to issue a notice of garnishment. Although these fees are recoverable from the debtor in addition to the repayment of the loan, the recovery of the fees does not take place, if at all, until long after the action is started. If a person does not have the fees to start the action in the first place he or she, in effect, has no legal remedy at all.

The cost of starting a family law application for support, for example, is $157. The fact that such applications can be started without that cost is also very helpful in family law disputes.

The request to have court fees waived may be made to the court office or to the court itself, at any time during the proceedings. The court fees will be waived if one meets the financial eligibility criteria.

One meets the financial eligibility criteria if his or her primary source of income is one or more of:

- Income assistance from Ontario Works;

- Income support from the Ontario Disability Support Program;

- Family Benefits Act allowance;

- Old Age Security Pension together with the Guaranteed Income Supplement;

- War Veterans Allowance; or

- Canada Pension Plan benefits.

One also meets the financial eligibility criteria if ones income and assets are below the following cut-offs:

- A sliding scale of gross monthly household income depending on the number of people in the household (1 - $1,500; 2 - $2,250, 3 - $2,583; 4 - $3,083 and 5 or more - $3,583)

- Household liquid assets - $1,500;

- Household net worth - $6,000.

Not all court fees may be waived. Some of the fees that cannot be waived include:

- Transcript fees and other fees to court reporters and monitors;

- Fees to mediators;

- Fees relating to criminal matters; - Most disbursements to the sheriff for the enforcement of orders; and

- Fees for the service of documents.

Fee waiver also does not apply to lawyers fees. Nor can one get a fee waiver if ones fees are being paid by Legal Aid Ontario or paid by a lawyer under a contingency fee arrangement.

More detailed information on Court Fee Waivers and the forms required to apply for the waiver are available on the Attorney Generals web site at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca. Click on the Court Fee Waiver Requests link under Forms in the top right hand corner of the page. We would be pleased to hear from you at the legal clinic if you have any questions.

- Peter Graham, Lawyer

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