Finding Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling

The passage of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 single handedly changed the face of bankruptcy filings in the United States. Previous to the passing of the act, hundreds upon thousands of individuals would haphazardly abuse their credit knowing that they could later file for bankruptcy and rid themselves of debt. The new laws make it much more difficult for individuals to rid themselves of debt and those who do decide to file a bankruptcy petition must follow a very specific process.

Bankruptcy Education Requirements

Bankruptcy laws now require debtors to take to different classes. One is a pre-bankruptcy credit counseling class and the other is a pre-discharge debtor education course. The pre-bankruptcy credit counseling class must be taken within 180 days (or approximately 6 months) before the bankruptcy petition is filing while the pre-discharge course can not be taken until after filing. The course you take must be one that is approved by the US Trustee Program and upon completion you must receive a numbered certificate from the institution providing the course.

Understanding Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling

Understanding Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling

The pre-bankruptcy credit counseling course was designed to ensure that debtors understand their debts and their options before filing for bankruptcy. The course will include discussions on a number of topics, including:

  • Your individual financial situation;
  • The pros and cons of bankruptcy and alternative options; and
  • How to create a personal budget.

Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling usually costs anywhere between $50 and $100 and your session will last for approximately 1 – 1 ½ hours. You may opt to visit a credit counselor in person, but these courses are often offered over the phone or on the internet as well.

According to US Bankruptcy law, credit counselors are required to provide these courses for free to individuals who can not afford them. If you can’t afford credit counseling, you must file a request for a fee waiver before you take the class.

Credit Counseling

Where to Find Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling

Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling courses are not difficult to find. You have two options for finding a course:

  • Call your local bankruptcy clerk’s office and ask for a list of credit counselors who do business in your particular district; or
  • Visit the website of the US Trustee Program for a complete list of approved credit counselors. Those planning to file for bankruptcy should avoid using any counselor that does not appear on this list.

Make sure you avoid credit counselors whose names do not appear on the list approved by the US Trustee Program. It is your right to work with a credit counselor you are comfortable with, but at the same time you need to make sure your paperwork will be processed properly.

Using an unapproved credit counselor or filing your bankruptcy petition without proof of credit counseling may result in the declination of your bankruptcy petition. If your case is thrown out of court you may have to wait months or years for another opportunity to re-file. Make sure you ask your bankruptcy attorney for help finding an approved pre-bankruptcy credit counseling service if you are unable to do so for yourself.

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