What’s the Cost of Going to Court?


The cost of going to court can upset your budget. The reason you’re going to court will dictate how much it will cost you. However, in most court case scenarios, there are some common fees you should expect to cover. If you take steps to budget in advance for your court proceedings, it can help to ease the blow to your bank accounts.

Court Costs

Let’s say you get a speeding ticket and decide to fight the ticket in court. If you go to court to fight the ticket and lose, you still have to pay the fine and additional court costs. Court costs are administrative fees that every court collects. In some cases, those fees can be up to $200.

In some states, win or lose, you must pay the court costs. If you ask the judge to give you time to pay these fees and other fines, they may allow it, but you do have to ask, and you do have to pay in the allotted time. Many people ask for additional time to pay for court costs and fines because it makes budgeting easier.

Legal Counsel

If you are going to court because you have been charged with a crime, you can add in the cost of a lawyer. Crime is rising, and courts are getting tougher and tougher on even first-time offenders. According to the FBI, there were 679,430 property crimes reported in Texas alone in 2018. Innocent or guilty, you’ll need a lawyer to protect your rights during the proceedings.

Of course, criminal charges aren’t the only reason you need legal counsel if you go to court. If someone files a civil claim against you, budget for a lawyer. There’s a wide range of disputes that are settled in civil court, so it’s always best to have experienced legal counsel on your side.

You may think that your budget doesn’t allow for hiring a lawyer, but it’s important enough that you should find the money in your budget to ensure you have the right support for any court case.

Filing Costs and Fees

Let’s say you decide that you will go to court to get your money back from an unsavory contractor that you hired who didn’t finish the job. You can represent yourself “pro se” (without a lawyer) to save some money, but you’ll still need to find money in your budget to pay filing costs and fees to initiate the lawsuit.

If your claim is below the “small claims threshold,” you may have to pay about $100 to file the paperwork. That paperwork needs to be filed in order to put your case before the judge and have a hearing on the matter. A warning: if you make a mistake when filing the paperwork, the court clerk can’t help you. Your claim may be kicked out, and you may have to start over, which will cost you more money.

Different Courts Have Different Fees

The cost of going to court not only varies by what you’re going to court for, but also by the type of court you visit. For example, federal court fees are much higher than state or county court fees. Luckily, according to the data from the federal court system today, only about 1% of civil cases are ever heard in court, and most are settled out of court. This is a dramatic change considering that in 1962, the percentage of cases that went to trial was 11.5%.

Preparing ahead of time for the cost of going to court can help to reduce the impact on your budget. Call the court and ask about costs and other costs you may have to cover, then prepare your budget. Learn more budgeting tips today.