When you ask a Utah court to do something for you, to change your name or sue someone, for example, you need to pay a fee. These fees help pay court staff, cover security and maintenance of courthouses, fund the construction of new courthouses, and more. They’re a critical part of ensuring the financial stability of Utah’s justice system.
But it’s important to balance that financial need with the rights of Utahns. Utah residents have the right to file petitions and lawsuits, and to participate in the legal process, without depriving themselves or their families of necessities like food and housing. For this reason, Utah Courts created a process to request a fee waiver.
In this article we’ll discuss who qualifies for fee waivers, how to know whether you qualify, and how to apply for a fee waiver.
Who qualifies for a Utah Court fee waiver?
The Utah State Legislature is in charge of funding Utah’s courts. They set court fees and determine who may be eligible to request a fee waiver. The Utah legislature most recently updated fee waiver rules in 2022 with S.B. 87 Court Fee Waiver Amendments.
There are two sets of requirements to consider—what the law says, and what the court says.
What does Utah law say about who’s eligible for fee waivers?
Utah’s Senate Bill 87, Court Fee Waiver Amendments, says the following about fee waivers and who qualifies:
“An individual may institute, prosecute, defend, or appeal any cause in a court in this state without prepayment of fees and costs or security if the individual submits an affidavit demonstrating that the individual is indigent.”
Translated from legalese, that means that people in Utah can participate in the legal process without paying a court fee if they can prove that they are “indigent.”
Indigent simply means “poor or needy.” The law in Utah defines “indigent” as someone who:
- Has an income level at or below 150% of the United States poverty level as defined by the most recent poverty income guidelines published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services;
- Receives benefits from a means-tested government program like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or Medicaid;
- Receives legal services from a nonprofit provider or a pro bono attorney through the Utah State Bar; or
- Has insufficient income or other means to pay the necessary fees and costs or security without depriving the individual, or the individual’s family, of food, shelter, clothing, or other necessities.
That last bullet point means that even if you don’t meet the main requirements, a judge may still waive your court fees if they determine that you can’t afford the fees and still support yourself.
Utah law requires that anyone requesting a court fee waiver must submit an affidavit demonstrating that they are indigent. That affidavit must contain complete information about the person’s:
- Identity and residence;
- Amount of income, including any government financial support, alimony, or child support;
- Assets owned, including real and personal property;
- Business interests;
- Accounts receivable;
- Securities, checking and savings account balances;
- Debts; and
- Monthly expenses.
If the person requesting the fee waiver is a prisoner, they need to also disclose the amount of money held in their prisoner trust account.
The affidavit of indigency must state the following:
“I, (insert name), do solemnly swear or affirm that due to my poverty I am unable to bear the expenses of the action or legal proceedings which I am about to commence or the appeal which I am about to take, and that I believe I am entitled to the relief sought by the action, legal proceedings, or appeal.”
How much is 150% of the United States federal poverty level?
One of the measures used by Utah law to determine eligibility for a fee waiver is whether your income is equal to or less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. This sounds more confusing than it actually is. Here’s how to know how much that is.
The US Department of Health and Human Services publishes their poverty guidelines here. To find 150% of the level, take the number found on this page and multiply it by 1.5. For example, if your household has only 1 person (you) then the poverty level as of Summer 2022 is $13,590. $13,590 multiplied by 1.5 equals $20,385.
So if you live alone and make $20,385 or less per year (before taxes), you would most likely qualify for a Utah Court fee waiver. There are other items to consider, though, so don’t rely only on this number.
What do Utah courts say about who’s eligible for fee waivers?
The website for Utah Courts has a helpful section titled “Do you qualify for a fee waiver?” On this page, users are asked a few questions based on the law outlined above. Answering “Yes” to any of the questions indicates that you may be eligible to get a fee waiver.
The questions are:
1.Do you receive any of these government benefits?
- Food stamps (SNAP)
- FEP or TANF
2. Do you receive legal services from a nonprofit provider or a pro bono attorney through the Utah State Bar?
3. What is your monthly income before taxes? Is your income less than the amount in the table below? (For each additional family member over six, add $590.)
|Family Size||Family Income|
* Note that this page is simply taking the annual poverty level from the previous section, multiplying by 1.5 (150%), and dividing that by 12 to get a monthly value.
4. Can you afford to pay the court fees and provide yourself and your family with food, shelter, clothing, or other necessities?
How to Submit a Fee Waiver Application
The guidelines above let you know for sure whether you’re not eligible, but ultimately only a judge can waive your court fees. Only submit a fee waiver application if you believe, based on the guidelines above, that you qualify. If you qualify, follow these steps:
> Download the correct forms
There are 8 different fee waiver forms—for different kinds of people, cases, and petitions. You can find all fee waivers in the forms section of this Utah Courts page. If you’re using SixFifty’s free tool for name and gender marker changes, Identity 650, you need to submit both of these forms:
Note that these forms can change, and were most recently changed in April of 2022. This is the correct form as of the publishing of this article on July 15, 2022.
> Fill out the forms
If you used SixFifty’s name or gender marker change tool, then you can use the petition that we emailed you as a template.
If you haven’t used SixFifty’s tools, here are some guidelines for filling out the fee waiver application:
- Enter your name, address, email, and phone number in the top left hand corner.
The email address you enter is the main way the court will communicate with you, so be sure that you enter it correctly and that it’s an email address you check regularly.
> Check the correct box for “I am.”
Identity 650 users will choose “Plaintiff/Petitioner.” If you’re not using a SixFifty tool, it’s still likely that you are the “Plaintiff/Petitioner” if you’re requesting that a fee be waived. If you’re not sure, contact the court.
> Select whether your case is at a District court or a Justice court.
If you’re asking the court for something, you’re almost certainly choosing “District.” If you’re going to court because you broke the law, choose “Justice.” If you’re not sure, contact the court.
> Fill in the Court’s address and other details.
To find your court’s district and address, use this page.
> Enter your name above “Plaintiff/Petitioner”
If you’re petitioning the court to change your name, use your current legal name as it appears on legal documents like your birth certificate.
> Leave these fields blank:
- Case Number
- Commissioner (domestic cases)
> Check the box next to “Filing fee” and enter the fee amount.
The fee to change your name or gender marker is $375. Other fees can be found here. This section refers to a “cover sheet.” Most petitions will use one of these cover sheets.
- Utah District Court Cover Sheet for Probate Cases
- Utah District Court Cover Sheet for All Civil Actions Except Probate Cases
Identity 650 users will receive a completed “Cover Sheet for Probate Cases” with their SixFifty documents.
> Add up the values in section 5. Then add up the values in section 6.
Section 5 is all of your monthly income of any kind. Remember that this is gross income, before taxes. You’ll cover taxes in the next section.
Section 6 is all of your tax deductions. Look for these on your W-2. Some employers use payroll systems like Gusto or Paychex where you can see your pay stubs. If you don’t know where to find your tax deductions, ask your employer.
> Subtract the total of Section 6 from the total of section 5
Your gross monthly income minus your tax deductions equals your monthly “After Tax Income.” This is something that the judge will use to determine your eligibility for a fee waiver—especially if you earn more than 150% of the federal poverty level and aren’t receiving government benefits or free legal help through the Utah State Bar.
> Review your application
Remember that court fee waivers are only for people who can’t afford to pay the fee and still support themselves. Ask yourself this question: “Now that I can see all of my income and expenses, can I afford to pay the court fee and still provide for myself and my family?” If so, don’t submit the application.
> Submit your Fee Waiver forms when you file your petition or other court paperwork.
If you’re using Identity 650, then you’ve already received instructions about how to file your paperwork. For everyone else, use the steps outlined in this article from Utah’s courts.
Help is available to those who need it
SixFifty provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need more help but can’t afford legal services, Utah’s courts site offers a helpful list of resources here. If you have any questions or feedback about these instructions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.