It’s already expensive enough to hire an attorney in Louisiana to assist with your lawsuit or divorce. Attorney fees are paid directly to the attorney you hire, but you also have to pay court costs and filing fees when documents are filed with the court. The fees are pre-determined depending on what type of lawsuit you file and the number of pages you file. It can vary widely from parish to parish and must be factored into the cost of filing your lawsuit or divorce.
Court costs and filing fees can be much higher than you think. For example, filing fees can cost anywhere from $250 to $400 for a divorce and that’s not counting what you paid the attorney. You may pay around $300 to file a regular succession on top of legal fees. It can be hard for family that don’t make a lot of income.
Also, when you must subpoena witnesses for a hearing, someone must serve that individual and there’s a fee for that. Same for when you need the court minutes or transcript of a particular hearing. You will have to pay the court reporter to spend time preparing the transcript to have it sent to you. The bill can steadily climb if you have a hotly contested case that spans a number of months. Attorneys do not normally assist you with court costs and filing fees, but may deduct them from your settlement in a personal injury case. However, this isn’t an option with a divorce, succession or other similar legal matter.
In Forma Pauperis Status in Louisiana
Louisiana law provides a way to assist those who cannot afford court costs and filing fees. It’s important that everyone in the community has the court system available to them regardless of income. An individual that is unable to afford to pay the costs of court and filing fees due to his or her poverty and lack of means has the option to file without paying court costs if certain standards are met and the proper paperwork is filed. An individual can file in forma pauperis, which will allow their fees to be deferred or pushed back until their case is finalized. The court costs and filing fees will still have to be paid by someone, but this gives those with less means and income a little breathing room. Once your case is complete, you or the other party will be on the hook for the filing fees.
How Do You Qualify for In Forma Pauperis?
The State of Louisiana has a set of guidelines that determine who can qualify for in forma pauperis or IFP. You will have to submit documents to show your lack of income to the Court and the Judge will review your case and determine whether or not you fit the guidelines. If you do, the Judge will grant your request and allow you to have your filing fees deferred. If not, then you will have to pay filing fees before the Clerk of Court will accept your filings.
The Court will look at a number of things including income, public assistance benefits, household members and other factors.
Here are two forms of supporting documentation you can provide to the court to strengthen your case for filing in forma pauperis or IFP:
- You income level is below or equal to 125% of the federal poverty level outlined here;
- You can prove that you receive public assistance benefits.
If you can prove these two factors and that you don’t have money stashed away in an account or an expensive home, then the Court may grant your request. Keep in mind the other party or your spouse in the event you’re filing for divorce can raise a challenge to your request. Speak with your attorney about filing for IFP or in forma pauperis.
Where Can I Find the Forms to File In Forma Pauperis Status?
You can review and complete these affidavits and present them to the Court. Contact an attorney if you need help completing the paperwork as it is extremely important that you do it correctly or the judge may deny your request.
Here’s a list of what the In Forma Pauperis Affidavit asks you to list:
- Phone Number
- Are you a student?
- Who lives in your household and how many children under 18 live with you
- Your occupation with phone numbers
- Gross income (before taxes)
- Total net monthly income
- Assets with balances owed
- Monthly expenses
- Credit cards
- Financial loans
- Monthly expenses
- Does anyone regularly assist you with expenses?
- Attorney fees
You will have to sign the affidavit and have it notarized. You will also need to bring a third party that will attest to the fact that due to your poverty and want of means you are unable to pay court costs in advance and they will need to sign and have their signature notarized.
The affidavit is then sent to the judge with the attached documentation where it will await his or her decision. You will need to periodically follow up with the court to see if your request was denied or granted so you can file your paperwork.
Lawsuits can be expensive. It’s important to speak with an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and you don’t get taken advantage of by the other party. Your attorney can help you navigate the court process when you can’t afford to pay the court costs and filing fees in Louisiana.
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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not to be used as legal advice. You must speak with an attorney as this website does not intend to provide legal advice.