SAEF Legal Aid logo. Click to return to home pageMobile menu. Click to view page options.
X button. Click to close window.

When do I have to pay Court Fees?

Please note that the legal information presented on this page is intended only for those living in the state of Illinois.

If you wish to resolve your legal problem in court, you may be required to pay court fees. The requirement to pay court fees depends on the type of legal problem you would like the courts to help with.

In this article, we will cover when individuals will have to pay court fees. Additionally, we discuss what to do if you can't afford your court fees.

Click here to see a complete list of fees required by Cook County family court.

New Case Filing Fee

To start a new court case, you must file a petition with the court. This can be done by an attorney – but if you do not have one, you must file the petition yourself and pay all required fees.

For family law cases, petitions cost $388.00 USD to file. This excludes petitions to establish paternity, which are free to file.

Service of Process Fees

Although technically not a court fee, you may want to consider the fees associated with service of process

If you want to start a lawsuit, you must make sure the other party is properly served notice of the lawsuit.

Depending on your case, you may be able to serve the other party via certified mail. Otherwise, you can pay to serve the other party through:

  • the Cook County sheriff's office, which typically charges a fee between $50.00-$60.00 USD; or
  • a special process server, with varying fees

Appearance Fees

If you are served notice of a lawsuit, you should receive a notice of summons. This notice informs the recipient that they have 30 days to file their appearance.

You must file an appearance if you wish to attend court hearings regarding your lawsuit. The cost to file an appearance in Cook County family court is typically $250.00 USD.

What if I Can't Afford My Court Fees?

If you are unable to pay required court fees, you may request to file a fee waiver. Once a fee waiver is approved, the court will waive all fees associated with your court case.

To apply for a fee waiver, you must share the court information about your finances, including:

  • the kinds of public aid you receive, such as LINK/SNAP, TANF, Medicaid, or SSI
  • the amount of income you earned last month
  • an estimate of your annual income
  • an estimate of your monthly expenses; and
  • an estimated value of all the property or assets you own

See Related