In a California divorce, there is a filing fee that must be paid to the court clerk when a spouse files the divorce petition to start a divorce case and again if the other spouse files a response to the petition.  This filing fee in most counties is currently $435.  However, if you think you can’t afford the filing fee, you can apply for a fee waiver.

To help you decide if you qualify, it’s a good idea to download the application form (FW-001) and an information sheet (FW-001-INFO) from the court’s website.

Qualifying for a Fee Waiverfee waiver

There are three ways to qualify:

  • You are already receiving government benefits due to low income;
  • Your gross income is less than a certain amount; or
  • You claim that you don’t have enough income to pay for both your family’s basic needs and the filing fee.

If you are already receiving any of the following government benefits, you should qualify: Food Stamps, SSI, SSP, Medi-Cal, County Relief / General Assistance, IHSS, CalWORKS, Tribal TANF or CAPI.

If your monthly gross income from all sources is less than $1,237 (plus about $433 for each family member you support), you should qualify for a fee waiver.   So, for example, if you support two children and your monthly gross income is less than $2,100, you should qualify.  You will have to provide some supporting detail for your income (and any income of others in the household you are supporting or who support you).

If your income is higher than the threshold above and you still think it’s not enough to pay for both basics needs and the filing fee, you need to provide the following information on the application form:

  • source and amount of each type of income you (and supported / supporting household members) receive;
  • your money and property (cash, financial accounts, vehicles, real estate, other personal property) and the value of each; and
  • your monthly payroll deductions and living expenses (type and amount for each).

You can also list any other relevant facts you want the court to know to try to help your application get approved.