About this guide
This guide tells you how to apply for a court order that lets you begin or respond to an application without paying court fees. This court order is called an order to waive fees.
This guide includes:
- a list of steps explaining how to apply for an order to waive fees,
- links to the blank forms you'll need, and
- information about what will happen when you go to court.
- filing documents,
- swearing affidavits,
- searching some court records,
- photocopying, and
- issuing certain documents (for example, a certificate of judgment).
There are no fees in Provincial Court.
Do you need to have fees waived?
Before you begin this application, make sure you really need an order to waive fees. For some procedures, the court filing fees may be minimal. For example, the fee for filing a response is $25.
To find out if you need to pay a fee to the court registry for filing a document, see Appendix C of the Supreme Court Family Rules for a list of all court fees or call your local court registry.
Can you get an order to waive fees?
There are two situations in which you can get an order to waive fees:
- If you receive benefits under the Employment and Assistance Act or the Employment and Assistance for Persons with Disabilities Act; or
- If you can't afford to pay fees without facing undue hardship.
What is undue hardship?
In most areas of family law, "undue" means excessive, exceptional, or disproportionate.
Before the court will make an order waiving court fees, the judge or master will also consider whether the claim or response you want to file is reasonable or whether it's frivolous, vexatious, or an abuse of the court process.
To decide this, the judge or master must see a copy of the document(s) you want to file without paying fees. Usually this includes one or more of the following:
- a Notice of Family Claim (Form F3),
- a Response to Family Claim (Form F4),
- a Counterclaim (Form F5), or
- a Notice of Application (Form F31) with supporting affidavits.
What does an order to waive fees cover?
If you have an order to waive fees. you do not have to pay the fees listed in Appendix C of the Supreme Court Family Rules.
The judge or master can order that you don't have to pay court fees:
- for the whole case (this will cover filing, hearing, and other fees listed in Schedule C);
- for certain steps of the case (for example, to file a particular document);
- for a certain period of time; or
- for any part of the case.
If your financial circumstances change, the judge or master can revoke an order to waive fees. If that happens, you'll have to pay filing fees for any new documents that need to be filed or new hearing fees.So, unless an order is made to revoke your order to waive fees or the order is limited in some way, you won't need to apply to court again to avoid paying filing fees every time you have to file a new document.
Get legal help
It's a good idea to get some legal help before you begin a guide. If you can't afford a lawyer, there are other ways to get legal help, including:
In Vancouver, Victoria, and Nanaimo, the Justice Access Centre's Self-Help and Information Services can also answer your questions and help you fill out forms.
Prepare the document(s) you want to file
- A copy of the court document(s) you want to file without paying court filing fees
You must complete the court document(s) before applying for an order to waive fees for a couple of reasons:
- It may take some time to prepare the court document(s).
- During that time your financial situation may change.
For step-by-step instructions on how to complete your court document(s), see the step-by-step guide that applies to your situation, such as:
Parenting or child/spousal support
- Start a family law case to get a new order in Supreme Court
- Respond to an application to get a new order in Supreme Court
If you can't agree
If you agree
Prepare the documents needed to apply for a waiver
- A Requisition (Form F17) (PDF) (Word),
- A draft Order to Waive Fees (Form F85) (PDF) (Word), and
- An Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees (Form F86) (PDF) (Word).
For more information about preparing orders, see Tips for writing Supreme Court orders.
When you fill out the Requisition (Form F17), type in "File an application for an order to waive fees" under "Required."
If you're receiving benefits under the Employment and Assistance Act or the Employment and Assistance Act for Persons with Disabilities Act (income assistance), get a statement from the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction confirming how much you receive and for which months you've received it. Ask your financial assistance worker for this information and attach it to your affidavit.
The Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees (Form F86) has four exhibits (or parts) that must be included:
- Exhibit A: the financial statement,
- Exhibit B: details of your education and employment history,
- Exhibit C: workplace skills, and
- Exhibit D: the document(s) you want to file without paying filing fees (see Step 1 for links to other step-by-step guides for instructions on how to complete specific documents).
Swear the affidavit
- Your completed Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees (Form F86)
- The affidavit exhibits
- Photo identification
- Money to pay the fee
You must swear or affirm that the information that appears in the Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees (Form F86) and the affidavit exhibits is true.
You have to do this in front of a:
- notary public,
- government agent, or
- clerk at the court registry.
Some people charge more than others to swear or affirm documents. Shop around. (The registry fee is $40 as of July 1, 2010, but it can change.)
Make copies of the documents
- Your completed Requisition (Form F17)
- Your sworn Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees (Form F86)
- The exhibits
- Your completed Draft Order to Waive Fees (Form F85)
Make one copy of all the completed documents. Take the original and the copy to the court registry when you go to file.
File the documents at the court registry
- Both sets of your completed forms and supporting documents
Which court registry?
Not all courthouses have Supreme Court registries. To find the nearest Supreme Court registry, visit the Courthouse Services website, or call Service BC to confirm that the courthouse contains a Supreme Court registry and find out what hours it's open.
If you're filing a Notice of Family Claim (Form F3)
- File the application for an order to waive fees at your nearest Supreme Court registry.
If you're filing a Response to Family Claim (Form F4), Counterclaim (Form F5), or Notice of Application (Form F31)
- File your application for an order to waive fees documents in the same court registry where the original family law case was begun (unless a court order to change the registry has been issued since your case began).
When will you appear in court?
In some courthouses, judges or masters hear cases every day. In others, they are only available to hear cases once in a while. Ask the registry clerk what dates are available and then select the date you want to appear. The registry clerk will write that date on your order.
The registry will stamp all the documents and keep one set (the originals) in the court file and give you back the other set.
Prepare to appear in court
- Your copy of the court documents
- To get familiar with what happens in a Chambers hearing
Organize your court documents
Organize your copy of the court documents so that you can refer to them easily, if necessary. You might want put them all in a binder, for example, or flag specific pages or information with sticky notes.
Watch a Chambers hearing
The hearing will be in a courtroom but it will be more informal than a trial. This is called a Chambers application.
Chambers procedure is different from the court proceedings you see on television. The best way to prepare is to go into court and watch Chambers in action before the day you have to appear. Ask the court registry staff what courtroom Chambers are being held in; then go and watch.
In Chambers, a court clerk calls out the name of each case. The lawyers acting for each person, or the people themselves, step forward. They tell the judge or master their names. Then the lawyer or person who's asking for a court order tells the judge or master what they're asking for and summarizes the "evidence." This evidence is contained in affidavits and exhibits.
That may be all the lawyer or person needs to do. If someone opposes the application, it's then that other lawyer's/person's turn to speak to the judge or master. The judge or master may ask each lawyer or person questions. The judge or master then decides whether to grant the order being sought.
If you watch Chambers, you'll get used to how it works. You'll see how to introduce yourself, where people stand, how to speak to the judge or master, and what to say. For more information, see What happens in a Supreme Court Chambers hearing?
Outline what you'll say
After watching Chambers, prepare an outline of what you're going to say to the judge or master (see Step 7).
Appear in court
- Your copy of all the court documents:
- The Requisition (Form F17)
- The original and one copy of the draft Order to Waive Fees (Form F85)
- The Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees (Form F86)
- The exhibits, or a statement from the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction
- The outline of what you'll say to the judge or master
What to call the judge or master
In Supreme Court, you call
- a female judge "My Lady" or "Your Ladyship"
- a male judge "My Lord" or "Your Lordship"
- a master "Your Honour"
Applications for an order to waive fees are often heard by a master.
What to say in court
When your case is called, go to the front of the courtroom where you can be clearly heard. Tell the judge or master your name and that you're not represented by a lawyer. Then tell them what you want.
If a master is hearing your application in Chambers, you might say something like this:
"Your Honour, my name is Jane Smith. I'm not represented by a lawyer.
I'm applying to the court for an order to waive fees so that I can file a Notice of Family Claim for a divorce. I have filed an affidavit that sets out my financial position and includes a financial statement, an ability to earn an income statement, and an explanation of expenses statement."
Usually, the judge or master will then read the affidavit and exhibits. They may ask you questions to help make the decision about whether paying the fees would cause you undue hardship.
If the judge or master is satisfied that you meet the test, they will grant your order. They may use a phrase like "Take your order." That means your order has been granted.
If the judge or master isn't going to grant your order, they will tell you why.
You may then leave the courtroom.
Complete and file the Order to Waive Fees (Form F85)
- The original and one copy of the Order to Waive Fees (Form F85)
On the draft order:
- After the word "Before," write the name of the judge or master who granted the order.
- If it was a judge, write "Before the Honourable Mr. Justice" (or Madam Justice, for a woman) and the judge's name (for example, Mr. Justice White, or Madam Justice Brown).
- If a master heard your case, write "Before Master" and the master's name (for example, "Before Master Green").
On each copy of the order:
- Write the day, month, and year when you appeared in court if the clerk hasn't already done so.
- Write the additional terms the judge or master made, if there are any.
Take the original copy of the order to the court registry.
- The original is given to the judge or master for his/her signature.
- You'll receive a photocopy of the original once it's signed and entered as an order of the court.
Once the order has been granted, completed, and signed by the judge/master, registry staff will enter the order and make a copy for you. Be sure to ask the clerk how long it usually takes to have the written order signed and entered and where you should go to pick up your copy.
Receive the signed order and make copies
Follow the registry clerk's instructions for picking up your signed order.
Once you've received a copy of the entered (approved) order, you can proceed with filing the document(s) in your case.
File a copy of the signed order with your other document(s)
You can now file the document(s) you prepared in Step 1 (for example, a Notice of Family Claim [Form F3], or a Response [Form F4], Counterclaim [Form F5], or Notice of Application [Form F31]).
Be sure to bring to the court registry an entered (approved) copy of the Order to Waive Fees (Form F85), plus the original and the correct number of photocopies of the document(s) you prepared in Step 1. (See the step-by-step guide for your situation for the number of photocopies you need.)
You've now gone through all the steps required to get an order to waive fees in Supreme Court. Thank you for using our step-by-step guide.