Bankruptcy Basics – Credit Counseling and Financial Education Requirements

Under the BAPCPA, debtors planning to file for bankruptcy, under either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, must complete a consumer credit counseling course before they will be allowed to file a bankruptcy petition. Such credit counseling program needs to be completed within 180 days prior to the filing.

A pre-bankruptcy counseling session with an approved credit counseling organization usually includes an evaluation of the debtor’s personal financial situation, a discussion of alternatives to bankruptcy, and a personal budget plan. A typical counseling course lasts about 60 to 90 minutes, and can take place in person, on the phone, or on internet. The counseling organization is required to provide the counseling free of charge for those consumers who cannot afford to pay. If you cannot afford to pay a fee for credit counseling, you should request a fee waiver from the counseling organization before the session begins. Otherwise, you may be charged a fee for the counseling, which will generally be about $50, depending on where you live, the types of services you receive, and other factors. The counseling organization is required to discuss any fees with you before starting the counseling session.

Once you have completed the required counseling, you must get a certificate as proof. You can check if the organization providing the course is approved in the judicial district where you are filing bankruptcy by going to the U.S Trustee’s web site.  Once the course is completed, you will receive the certificate.  Credit counseling organizations may not charge an extra fee for the certificate.

In addition, once the bankruptcy is filed, debtor must obtain debt management counseling before being allowed to complete the bankruptcy process.  A debtor education course by an approved provider usually includes information on developing a budget, managing money, using credit wisely, and other resources. Like pre-filing counseling, debtor education may be provided in person, on the phone, or online. The debtor education session might last longer than the pre-filing counseling – about two hours – and the typical fee is between $50 and $100. As with pre-filing counseling, if you are unable to pay the session fee, you should seek a fee waiver from the debtor education provider. Make sure that you received the certificate from a debtor education provider that is approved in the judicial district where you filed bankruptcy. Check the list of approved debtor education providers at the U.S. Trustee’s web site.

There are three main objectives of the Personal Financial Management course:

  1. The help the debtor understand the benefits of creating short-term and long-term financial goals.
  2. To teach the debtor how to create a budget.
  3. To teach the debtor how to balance a checkbook and reconcile bank statements.

The purpose of these courses is to help the debtor become financially literate and avoid another bankruptcy.

Once you have completed the required debtor education course, you should receive a certificate as proof. This certificate is a different document from the certificate you received after completing your pre-filing credit counseling. Unless they have disclosed a charge to you before the counseling session begins, debtor education providers may not charge an extra fee for the certificate.

The Personal Financial Management course must be completed within 45 days after filing bankruptcy; but before receiving a discharge through bankruptcy. This is important because if the debtor does not complete this second course after filing for bankruptcy, the Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be closed without a discharge.

If you are dealing with debt problems in Rochester, New York; Canandaigua, Brighton, Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, Fairport, Webster, Victor, Farmington, Greece, Gates, Hilton, Parma, Brockport, Spencerport, LeRoy, Chili, Churchville, Monroe County, Ontario County, Wayne County, Orleans County, Livingston County, and being harassed by bill collectors, and would like to know more about how bankruptcy may be able to help you, contact me today by phone or email to schedule a FREE initial consultation.