Being involved in a Texas family log case doesn’t have to be expensive but oftentimes it can be. There are many reasons for this. First, you may have to take time away from your job which if you are paid hourly or on a contract basis can impact your income. Additionally, you may find that your family law case requires you to pay fees and expenses associated with a child custody or divorce matter. This is on top of having to pay child support, spousal maintenance, or any other form of payment associated with their case. Finally, you may also have to contend with paying attorney’s fees to make sure that someone is available to represent you in a case.
Additionally, there are expenses associated with having to go to court and filing your child custody or divorce case. These court costs vary depending upon the type of case you have filed, the specific types of documents you file along the way as well as the county your case is filed in. Before becoming involved in a family law case it is recommended that you take a look at the various court costs that may be relevant to your case to prepare as well as possible for them. This way you can alter your budget if need be and move forward more confidently into your case.
If you do not have the money to pay for these costs in fees there is an option for you to take advantage of should you qualify. You can file a motion with the court to waive these fees in costs. However, you must be able to prove that certain circumstances are in place that renders you unable to pay the fees and expenses. Please note that not having the money at the moment to pay for the fees or expenses is not the same as being unable to do so at any point. Let’s discuss those circumstances that may allow for your court costs and fees to be waived by a Texas family court.
The first circumstance that may allow for you to be able to have your court costs waived is by showing proof that you receive government benefits. The government benefits that I have in mind are things like food stamps, Medicaid, being a resident of Section 8 housing, or even Supplemental Security Income payments from Social Security. Receiving these types of benefits essentially shows that your income or assets are at a level akin to that of a welfare recipient. In that case, you will likely be able to have your fees or expenses from the court waived by the judge.
Another way to show the court that you qualify for having your court costs waived is by producing evidence that your attorney was appointed through a pro bono or legal aid service. Depending on the circumstances of your case and your specific income situation, he may qualify to have your legal representation paid by an outside agency or have those costs completely waived. If you are not paying any money for your attorney to represent you in qualify for this type of benefit based on having a low income then producing the same evidence regarding having your court fees waived is likely to be sufficient.
This may be true even if the agency that you applied for free legal assistance from could not take your case. Simply preparing the documentation to show a lack of resources for free legal aid can lay the groundwork to be able to have your court costs waived. Bear in mind that many people apply for free legal assistance and that not being able to afford to hire a lawyer is not reason enough to always will be provided with a lawyer. Rather, some of these groups and agencies operate on a first come first serve basis and at the time you apply there may not be sufficient attorneys available to assist you. However, this alone may not prevent you from having your court costs and fees waived.
Even if none of the preceding circumstances apply to you and your family, you may still be able to have your court costs and fees waived by a judge if you can provide evidence that you were unable to pay for the essentials and afford to pay court costs. For instance, if your income is low enough where you cannot pay for food, utilities, and rent for your family in addition to court costs then the judge may waive your fees and costs associated with being in court. You should be prepared with evidence to back up your argument like this, however. Simply making an argument to this effect and expecting to have an attorney appointed for you or to have your court costs waived would not be a great idea.
Will you know in advance how much it costs to file your family law case?
The fee schedules for most Texas family courts are posted online. All it takes is a bit of research to determine how much you owe the court before filing a divorce or child custody case. These filing fees vary from county to county but never typically rise above a few $100 even in the larger counties in Texas. However, there are other fees and costs associated with going to court. Having to hire A process server to serve your spouse, making multiple copies of documents and costs like these can add up over time. It is not sufficient for you to assume that there will not be any costs associated with your case beyond the filing of it.
The district clerk’s website for the county in which you plan to follow your case should contain this fee schedule. If you don’t have Internet access at home you may be able to access the website on the phone or tablet of a friend or neighbor. Another great source for free Internet to perform research like this would be your local library. From what I understand most county libraries are open in Texas as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. There may also be costs to make copies or print documents at the library but you should consult with your library staff for specific information about this subject.
What is the process like to ask a court to waive your court fees and costs?
Like anything else in the world of family law, there are steps and processes associated with asking to have your court costs and fees waived. the first step to this process would be filling out a form called a statement of inability to afford the payment of court costs or an appeal bond. Before you prepare to fill this form out you should have your contact information, information regarding representation by a legal aid provider, details about any public benefits you receive, information about your income and assets as well as monthly expenses and debts ready to be presented. This is the evidence you will need to back up any statements or assertions you make on this form.
Something to bear in mind is that you need to be honest when you fill out the paperwork. Remember that these are documents that you are filing in court and they will be reviewed by a family court judge. The opinions and impressions the judge forms of you begin with first impressions like this. If your judge believes you are being less than truthful you cannot only be punished by the court but that opinion will stick with the judge as you move into the later stages of your case. The last thing you want is for the judge to think that you are not an honest person.
The other thing to bear in mind is that the form may have parts of it that you do not understand or you need clarification on. If you need assistance in completing the form you can contact the court to see what resources are available to you for assistance. The larger counties in Texas have law libraries that frequently have attorneys available to assist you with filling out paperwork. However, lack of information or lack of access to an attorney does not mean you can fill out the form partially And turn it in that way. Rather, you must complete the form in full and answer the questions the court asks you to.
What happens after you turn in your statement of inability to afford the payment of court costs?
Once you have completed the document and have done so honestly, the clerk of the court will review the document. It is the pretty standard operating procedure for the clerk of the court to use the federal poverty guidelines as the benchmark for determining whether or not you qualify to have your court costs and fees waived. The clerk can either determine that you do qualify or can submit the document to the judge for him or her to decide. Your opposing party may object to your attempt to have these court costs waived and they may file a contest.
No matter what is decided, you are still able to file your case and have service performed on your opposing party. The court cannot make you pay and have this step in the process wait. However, bear in mind that the court can later determine that you need to pay these court costs. therefore, it would be wise to not put all of your eggs in one basket by having these fees waived. Rather, if you can begin to think about how you will pay for this case if your court costs and fees are not waived that would put you in a better position of being completely shocked to find out that you have to pay certain costs associated with your case.
If the clerk does not grant your request to have your court costs waived or if you’re opposing party files a contest to your attempt to have them waived then your’re case will be set for a hearing in the courthouse. It is recommended that you bring the same information you initially provided to the court in terms of your income, pay stubs, or tax returns to verify your income. Also, whatever expenses you are responsible for paying every month should be brought to the hearing, as well. Your eligibility and receipt of any government benefits like Medicaid, food stamps, or other types of welfare should also be taken with them to court for the hearing.
In the hearing itself, the judge will look through the evidence you provide and any from your opposing party if necessary. You will also be allowed to present testimony to the judge to show him or her why your request to have your fees and costs of court waived is justified by your circumstances. The judge will deliberate and then decide whether or not you can afford to pay the court peas in costs. This decision may come on the same day or maybe made at a later date in time.
What does the actual document say?
A statement of inability to afford the payment of court costs or an appeal bond can be found online. I have included a copy of the document here for you to refer to as we go through it in the closing section of today’s blog post. You will be asked to fill out your full legal name and date of birth. Your home and mailing address are required along with your contact information like an email address or phone number. Importantly, you will need to list the name, age, and relationship to you if any dependent you have.
You will then be able to weigh in on whether or not you are represented by any legal aid organizations. Next, you will be asked whether or not you receive any type of public benefits like food stamps, public housing, Medicaid, or Social Security Supplemental Security Income. Your wages, unemployment, or public benefits that you earn each month will be detailed as well. You will also need to go through the property that you own if any. This includes bank accounts, vehicles, and any other personal property.
The value of your personal property will need to be accounted for. You should be prepared to list the value of any of the following pieces of information: cash, bank accounts, vehicles, jewelry, land, real estate, and investments. Once you have calculated the total of these items you can subtract monthly costs like rent, mortgage payments, medical insurance, and transportation.
Finally, you will be asked to declare that the information you have provided is true and correct to the best of your knowledge. This is an extremely important document and you should be as honest as you can be. As I mentioned earlier today in this blog post the information you provide can be used to not only impact the decision of whether to waive court costs but 2 determine how a judge views you in your case in the coming weeks and months.
How can you reduce costs in your divorce?
While it is not always possible, a shorter divorce is generally speaking less expensive than a long divorce. You should be prepared to go she ate early and often with your spouse if at all possible. The negotiations give me difficulty for your ego at times but it almost certainly will save you money as opposed to letting conflicts last for long periods while you and your spouse go back and forth over largely unimportant issues.
Any disagreements that can be sorted out between you and your spouse directly rather than having to include your attorneys save money as well. Keep in mind that every time new contact your attorney for the assistance he or she will bill you for the opportunity. While sometimes utilizing the assistance of your attorney is unavoidable I can tell you that in many cases you can certainly avoid using an attorney by just working out problems directly with your spouse whenever possible. This may take putting your pride to this side and allowing your spouse to express him or herself more readily but I can tell you that it can save you money.
Finally, make sure that you are interviewing multiple family law attorneys before hiring one to represent you in your divorce. There are many options out there when it comes to hiring a lawyer and you should not assume that all attorneys charge the same or offer the same kind of services. Proper research at the beginning of a case will result in fewer problems down the line when it comes to costs.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
if you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how are your family circumstances may change with the filing of a divorce or child custody case.