How to File for a Free Divorce in California

By John Stevens J.D.

To create uniformity among legal paperwork throughout California, California’s Judicial Counsel has adopted many statewide legal forms. Among those forms is a fee waiver application for low-income persons. The application may be used for any type of case, including divorce. Fortunately, the necessary paperwork is readily available and straightforward to fill out.

Acquire Judicial Counsel of California form FW-001 (“Request to Waive Court Fees”) and Judicial Counsel of California form FW-003 (“Order on Court Fee Waiver”) from any state court clerk’s office in California. The forms are free.

Fill out the requested information on page 1 of form FW-001. Under item 3 of the form, enter “In Pro Per,” which tells the court that you are not represented by an attorney. Under item 4, check the box next to “Superior Court.” Item 5 shows three options. If collecting public assistance, check box A, then check the box for the type of assistance being received. If you are not collecting public assistance, but your gross household income is less than the figure represented in the chart under box B, then check box B. If you are not collecting public assistance, and your gross household income is greater than the figure represented in the chart under box B, check box C, which indicates that you do not earn enough money to pay for your household’s basic needs and the court fees. Sign and date the bottom of page 1.

Fill out the requested income information on page 2 of form FW-001, if necessary. If box A of item 5 is not checked, do not fill out page 2. If box B of item 5 is checked, fill out the requested information for items 7, 8 and 9 only. If box C of item 5 is checked, fill out all of the requested information on page 2.

Fill out the requested information on page 1 of form FW-003. Under item 2 of the form, enter “In Pro Per,” which tells the court that you are not represented by an attorney. Under item 4, check the box next to “Request to Waive Court Fees.”

Write your name at the top left corner of page 2 of form FW-003. Leave the rest of page 2 blank, as it is for court use only.

Make one photocopy of both pages of form FW-003.

Fill form FW-001 and both copies of form FW-003 with your divorce paperwork. You will not be required to pay any filing fees at the time of filing.

Wait for the court’s approval of the fee waiver. The court clerk will mail the photocopy of FW-003 to you. The copy will have been filled out by the court and will indicate whether the request to waive the fees has been granted. If the request has been denied, the reason for the denial will be indicated on page 2 of FW-003.

About the Author

John Stevens has been a writer for various websites since 2008. He holds an Associate of Science in administration of justice from Riverside Community College, a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from California State University, San Bernardino, and a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School. Stevens is a lawyer and licensed real-estate broker.

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