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Eligibility requirements for indigency (waiver of fees)

If you receive assistance from the state, you may be eligible to apply for court fee waivers.

A state law provides that if you cannot pay for court fees or costs, you may be able to have the state pay for them. Read more to see if you are eligible and how to use this law.

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You are eligible for a waiver, substitution or state payment of fees and costs if any one of the following scenarios applies to you:

A. You receive public assistance under one of the following programs:

  • Massachusetts Transitional Aid to Families With Dependent Children;
  • Massachusetts Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled & Children;
  • Federal Supplemental Security Income;
  • Massachusetts MassHealth (formerly Medicaid) or
  • Massachusetts Veterans Benefits;


B. Your income, after taxes, does not exceed 125% of the current Federal Poverty Line. See Poverty Threshold Guidelines for a chart of income by family size.


C. You cannot pay the court fees or costs without depriving yourself or those who are dependent on you of the necessities of life, including food, shelter and clothing.

Eligibility (if in jail or prison)

If you are currently confined in prison or jail and do not seek your immediate release but are

  • Suing a state or county agency, official or employee about something arising out of or resulting from a condition of or occurrence during confinement, and
  • Seeking court payment of normal fees and costs (see definition below)

please get from the Clerk's office separate forms for prisoners, which you must complete in order to qualify for a waiver. You can use the general forms for non-prisoners if you are asking the court to pay for extra fees.

If you are a prisoner, a Judge will need to act on your application after first ordering the facility where you are confined to produce a copy of your canteen account for the last six months. You may ask the court to order payment of the cost of serving the summons and complaint in the meantime, however, so your case can begin.

Additional Resources

Court fee definitions

The court divides the fees and costs related to each case into two categories: normal fees and extra feesAttorneys' fees are not eligible for waiver, substitution, or payment by the Commonwealth.

Normal fees and costs include:

  • Court filing fees and surcharges, and also appeal fees and surcharges
  • Other court fees for issuing or certifying papers or for photocopies
  • Constable or sheriff fees for serving court process, witness subpoenas, or other court papers
  • Costs of publishing notices relating to a court action

If you have costs and fees that are not considered normal costs and fees, they are "extra fees and costs."

Examples of extra fees and costs are:

  • Expert testing, examination, or testimony,
  • Cassette copies if you do not have a public defender, and
  • Appeal bonds

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