In Forma Pauperis
Updated March 2017 Fact Sheet PDF
“In Forma Pauperis” is a Latin phrase that means “in the form of a pauper.” It is used when you cannot afford to proceed with a civil cause of action because of the fees, costs, or security required.
“Pro se” is a Latin phrase that means “on one’s own behalf.” Pro se is used in the legal context when a person is representing themselves in a court proceeding.
Waiving Filing Fees
A Petition to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (IFP) is a request to the court that, due to your poverty, you should not have to pay the filing fee (currently a minimum of $165, but the fee can be more in some counties) or service costs ($50 or more if attempting personal service by sheriff). Note that this is a sworn statement to the court and any false or misleading information could be punishable by law.
Whenever you plan to file a civil action, a petition for IFP can be submitted to get the court to waive the costs involved. Generally, a court will base your ability to pay on what you own and how much money you make.
To get a court to waive the costs, you must file all of the following:
- a petition for IFP
- an affidavit of means for IFP
- the judge must sign the Order Granting Leave to Proceed IFP
In an IFP, the party seeking a waiver should fill in their name as petitioner. You will need to sign the Petition and the Supporting Affidavit. You must have the Supporting Affidavit notarized. Most banks have a notary that can do this for you for free
For the affidavit, the party should fill in their name as the Plaintiff or Petitioner and then answer each question honestly and completely. Failing to answer either honestly or completely can result in your petition being denied and could result in criminal perjury charges being filed against you.
What Happens Next
Although most documents are to be filed in the Court Clerk’s Office of your county, these IFP documents may need to be taken directly to the Judge’s Clerk for approval. Before approaching the judge’s clerk, you should start by asking the court clerk if they will accept the IFP documents. If not, you may take the forms to any Circuit Judge in your county. You will also need to take a copy of the Complaint or Petition you want to file with the court to the judge. If the judge decides that you are unable to pay the filing fee, then the judge will sign the Order Granting Leave to Proceed in Forma Pauperis.
You will then file the Request, Affidavit, and Order with the court clerk. Once all of these documents have been filed with the court clerk, you may proceed in filing your Complaint, Motion, or Petition. The clerk of the court will generally not file the Request and Affidavit until the Order is entered.
Make sure to keep a copy of all forms for yourself. These forms are available as interactive forms on arlegalservices.org.