Asking The Court For A Fee Delayer Application - In Forma Pauper (IFP)

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
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About Asking The Court For In Forma Pauperis (IFP) Status

Filing fees and court costs are necessary payments when initiating or handling a court case. Filing fees, determined by the court, cover administrative expenses and vary depending on the case's complexity. Court costs include fees for document delivery, court reporters, document copies, expert witnesses, etc., and differ based on case needs.

For those unable to afford these costs, they can file in forma pauperis (IFP), a legal status enabling individuals to proceed with their case without immediate payment of court fees. However, filing an affidavit doesn't guarantee IFP status and a denied request will necessitate upfront payment of the filing fee.

Under Louisiana law, qualification for IFP status is determined case by case. If you're deemed eligible, your request is granted; otherwise, it's denied.

What You Need To Know

When it comes to qualifying for in forma pauperis (IFP) status it’s important to understand that financial assistance received from friends or relatives who are not legally obligated to support you does not count as income. In other words, if you receive financial help from someone who is not legally responsible for your financial support, the assistance does not factor into the determination of whether you meet the income requirements for IFP. 

In the context of the IFP, the court primarily considers your own income and resources, along with certain government benefits or assistance that you may be receiving. Financial support from individuals who do not have a legal duty to provide for your needs, such as friends or non-immediate family members, is generally excluded from the calculation. 

This means that if you are seeking IFP status and you receive financial assistance from friends or non-legally obligated relatives, that support does not have to be disclosed as part of your income when determining your eligibility for IFP. The focus is primarily on your own financial situation and any applicable government benefits you may be receiving.

Even if your income is above 125% of the federal poverty level, you may still qualify for in forma pauperis (IFP) status. The court considers whether you can afford to pay the court fees and the costs in advance by considering your net income after reasonable expenses and debts.  

In Louisiana, the courts have a practical approach when assessing a person’s ability to pay court costs. They take into account your actual ability to cover those costs after paying necessary living expenses and debts. They may also consider whether you have unencumbered property, such as a modest family residence, that can be used to meet the expenses. It’s not necessary for you to sell your modest home and its furniture to come up with any money for court costs. The Louisiana Supreme Court has recognized that it’s important to take a realistic view of your financial circumstances when evaluating your ability to pay court costs.

When you request in forma pauperis (IFP) status, your opponent or the court clerk has the right to challenge your request by filing a traversal. A traversal is a formal procedure where they contest or dispute your claim to file or proceed with your case as an individual who cannot afford to pay the court fees.

If a traversal is filed against your IFP request, it means that the opposing party or court clerk believes that you do not meet the requirements for IFP status. They may argue that you have the financial means to pay the court fees or that your situation doesn’t meet the criteria for receiving fee waivers. 

The traversal process allows them to present their arguments and evidence to challenge your claim. The court will then review the traversal and consider the arguments from both sides before making a decision on whether to grant or deny your IFP status.

If you want to apply for in forma pauperis (IFP) status, it’s best for you to file the application along with your initial court documents if possible. This means including the IFP application when you first submit your legal paperwork to the court. 

However, if you’re already involved in an ongoing case and you find yourself unable to afford court costs later on, you can still apply for IFP status at a later stage of the case. It is important to note that you should apply before the costs become due to you. This means you should submit the IFP application before the deadline for paying the court fees.

The decision on your application for in forma pauperis (IFP) is made by the judge. The judge will carefully review your IFP application and assess whether you meet the eligibility criteria. Based on this review, the judge will then issue an order that either grants or denies your request for IFP status. 

The judge’s decision is typically based on various factors, such as your financial situation, supporting documentation provided, and any applicable laws or guidelines in your jurisdiction. They will evaluate whether you meet the requirements for IFP, which may include considerations such as your income, assets, and ability to pay court fees. 

Once the judge has thoroughly examined your application, they will make a determination and enter an order accordingly. If your application is granted, you will be allowed to proceed with your case without paying the usual court fees. On the other hand, if your application is denied, you will be responsible for paying the required fees unless you successfully appeal the decision or take other appropriate legal actions.

If you are in forma pauperis (IFP), you don't have to pay court fees at the beginning. However, if you lose or settle the case, you might have to pay court costs. The court can choose to waive these costs if they think it's fair to do so. It's important to know that if the case is settled or dismissed before a judgment is made, you need to pay all court costs before it's officially finished.

There are different rules for domestic violence and unemployment compensation cases. If you are seeking court protection from domestic abuse, stalking, or sexual assault and need things like temporary restraining orders or protective orders, you won't be asked to pay court costs upfront. The same goes for individuals claiming unemployment compensation benefits who want their cases reviewed by a court. Usually, they won't have to pay court costs unless the court decides their case was frivolous.

If the in forma pauperis (IFP) application is denied by the court, you have the option to apply to the appropriate appellate court for “supervisory writs.” These writs are requests to the higher court to review and potentially overturn the trial court’s denial of your IFP application. 

When you file a supervisory writ application related to an IFP denial, the appellate court must consider your application without requiring you to pay a filing fee. This means you won’t have to pay any fees to have your application reviewed. 

It’s important to act quickly when filing a writ application, either by the deadline set by the trial court or within 30 days of the court’s initial ruling, to ensure your application is considered.

If the Court grants you in forma pauperis (IFP) status, most of the costs associated with your case will be covered. This includes fees such as those charged by the court clerk, the sheriff, the court reporter, witness fees, jury costs, and the costs of a devolutive appeal and supervisory writs. 

In Louisiana state court lawsuits, you may still need to provide a bond for certain procedures such as a suspensive appeal or a temporary restraining order. For example, if you lose an eviction case and want to appeal, you would need to post a bond for a suspensive appeal to prevent the eviction from happening while the higher court reviews the case. In federal court, these bonds may be waived for IFP litigants.

If you have been granted in forma pauperis (IFP) status, the court typically cannot require you to make monthly payments towards the court costs. This means that if you have qualified for IFP, you are not expected to contribute regular payments to cover the expenses associated with your case.

Whether or not the court can deny a judgment until the costs are paid depends on the situation. If you have been granted in forma pauperis (IFP) status, the court generally cannot deny your judgment because you haven't paid the costs. This means that being in forma pauperis protects you from being denied a judgment due to an inability to pay the associated expenses. 

Furthermore, the court or the clerk's office cannot refuse to provide you with a certified copy of the judgment if you are in forma pauperis. This means that even if you haven't paid the costs, you should still be able to obtain an official copy of the judgment.

It's important to note that the court can still order the opposing party to pay the costs. So while your judgment may not be denied, the court may require the other party to cover the expenses.

If the case is settled or dismissed before a judgment is officially made, all costs must be paid for the settlement or dismissal to be completed.

In Louisiana, you would typically file your in forma pauperis (IFP) application with the court where your case is being heard. The specific court where you should file your IFP application will depend on the nature of your case. Here are some general guidelines for common types of cases:

  1. Civil Cases: If you are involved in a civil case, such as a lawsuit for personal injury, contract dispute, or family law matter, you would file your IFP application with the appropriate district court or city court in the parish where the case is being heard. Each parish has its own district court, and some may also have city courts for certain matters.

  2. Criminal Cases: For criminal cases, such as misdemeanors or felonies, you would file your IFP application with the appropriate criminal court. This can be a district court, city court, or a specialized criminal court depending on the jurisdiction and the severity of the case.

  3. Appellate Cases: If you are appealing a decision from a lower court, you would file your IFP application with the appellate court that has jurisdiction over the lower court. The Louisiana appellate court system consists of five circuit courts of appeal, each covering specific regions of the state.

How To File An In Forma Pauperis (IFP) Application

About Filing An In Forma Pauperis (IFP) Application

Filing an in forma pauperis (IFP) application is a procedure that lets those with limited funds proceed with legal cases without upfront court fees and costs. The application proves your financial inability to pay such costs.

To apply, you need to fill out a court-provided form detailing your financial situation including income, expenses, assets, and debts, and typically provide documents like bank statements or pay stubs to verify this.

Post submission, the court reviews the application to assess eligibility. If approved, an order granting IFP status is issued, enabling you to continue with your case without advance payment of usual legal fees.

You can get started on the IFP application process by using this interactive tool

Process To File An In Forma Pauperis (IFP) Application

Collect any supporting documents that demonstrate your financial situation. This may include pay stubs, bank statements, tax returns, proof of public assistance benefits, or any other relevant financial records. Make copies of these documents to submit with your application.

Fill out the IFP application form. This interactive tool can help you get started. Provide accurate and detailed information about your income, expenses, assets, and any other relevant financial information. Follow any specific instructions or guidelines mentioned on the form or provided by the court. Attach the necessary supporting documentation to your IFP application. Carefully review the completed IFP application for accuracy. 

Determine individuals who are familiar with your financial circumstances and are willing to provide an affidavit to include with your IFP application on your behalf. These witnesses can include friends, family members, employers, social workers, or any other individuals who can attest to your situation. The individual must be above the age of 18. 

Approach the potential witness and explain your need for their support in your IFP application. Ask them if they are willing to provide and sign an affidavit describing your financial situation. Once you finalize the affidavit, the witness must sign the statement in the presence of a notary public to verify their authenticity. 

Submit the witness statement or affidavit with the IFP application.

Find a notary public. Ask about fees and schedule your appointment. Bring your witness with you so you can both sign the documents for the IFP application and have them notarized. You and your witness should both bring a photo ID to the appointment. 

During the appointment, you and your witness will sign the IFP application documents in the presence of the notary. The notary will then officially notarize the documents, typically by applying a stamp or seal and signing as a witness.

File your completed IFP application along with the supporting documents at the appropriate court. Include supporting documents that demonstrate your financial circumstances. Include the signed witness statement or affidavit with the application. Keep a copy of your application and supporting documents for your records.

After submitting your application it’s important to follow up with the court to ensure that it has been received and processed. You can contact the court clerk’s office or check the status of your application through their online system, if available. The court will review your application and notify you of their decision on whether you qualify for IFP status.

Last Review and Update: Jun 12, 2023
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