What are Court Costs?
Court costs are generally incurred upon the start of a court case, where some of the work completed may attract a fee. Court fees can often surpass the actual monetary value of the case, which means that a court case should be carefully considered before incurring court costs.
In England and Wales, there are several methods to gain financial assistance with incurred court costs; however, you may be required to provide evidence of financial hardship or an otherwise inability to pay your own court costs. This is designed to give all individuals the same access to justice, regardless of the cost of a court case.
When do I have to pay Court Costs?
Court costs are generally incurred following the delivery of the court verdict of a case. In many instances, the losing party must pay the court costs of the winning party, in addition to any damages, compensation etc. awarded by the court.
What types of help with Court Costs are available?
There are several different ways you can gain assistance with paying court costs. The primary methods are:
- EX160 Form
- Legal Aid
- Help at Court
An EX160 form allows application for court fee remission. There are three types of remission based on your financial circumstances:
- Full Remission, based on permitted benefits
- Full Remission, based on gross annual income
- Part Remission, on a means-tested basis.
The EX160 Form must be submitted with supporting documents to provide evidence of financial hardship, low income or any other reason for which you cannot afford to pay all or part of your court costs.
A Full Remission of court costs based on permitted benefits is available to those receiving:
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- State Pension Guarantee Credit
- Working Tax Credits but not in receipt of Child Tax Credit
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
To gain Full Remission of court costs based on gross annual income, you must provide evidence of your marital status, any dependant children and your gross annual income.
You may be eligible for a Part Remission of court costs if your disposable monthly income is over a certain amount but you meet specific criteria, which include:
- Your marital status
- Your gross annual income
- Your net monthly income
- Any dependant children
- Monthly housing costs
- Monthly expenses.
There are further criteria which are set out in full on the EX160 application form.
Legal Aid is also available to those who require help with court costs and representation. Again, certain requirements must be met in order to receive Legal Aid.
Usually, Legal Aid is sought in civil law cases, but it is possible to gain Legal Aid in a criminal law case. It is highly recommended that you complete an ‘Application for Legal Aid in Criminal Proceedings’ form, which should be provided by your solicitor before the start of the case. If you do not receive the form, you should ask for one.
Help at Court
Help at Court is similar, and offers assistance in providing someone to speak on your behalf in court. You must enter a contract with the Legal Services Commission (LSC) in order to receive this type of help. As well as various financial conditions, Help at Court will only be provided if:
- It can be shown that providing someone to speak on your behalf in court is appropriate and of real benefit to you
- If it is reasonable for Help at Court to be provided to you
- It is better for you to attend a court hearing, rather than your solicitor simply writing to the defending party on your behalf.
Are there any other types of help with court costs?
There are many alternative ways in which to receive help with court costs, but you may not qualify for all of them:
Fixed Fee Interviews are a good way of receiving an initial consultation with a legal professional, often free of charge. This could help you decide whether a potential court case is worth pursuing, thus saving you the cost of fighting a losing battle.
If you are a member of a Trade Union, they may be able to offer assistance with challenging decisions made by your employer in court.
Some motoring organisations also offer discounted or free court costs on certain insurance plans. Alternatively, it is possible to take out legal expenses insurance policies in the event of court costs being incurred.
The Bar Pro Bono Unit offers free legal advice and representation from volunteer barristers to those who cannot afford court costs. This must be applied for in advance of your court case.
A Conditional Fee Agreement can be put into place in all civil, non-family court cases. This means that, if you lose, you only have to pay the costs of the other side, and, depending on the agreement, any barrister’s fees. It also means that, if you win, you usually pay your solicitor a higher fee than you would normally.
There are many methods of gaining help with court costs, but all are different and you should evaluate which you are most likely to receive and which would be of most benefit to you before committing to a court case.