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Bankruptcy is a viable option for getting a fresh financial start in life, but it does come with some requirements. Before your lawyer can file your bankruptcy petition, you must complete a mandatory credit counseling session. Upon completion, you’ll be issued a certificate that must be filed with your bankruptcy petition. Without this certificate, the court will dismiss your bankruptcy case.

How do I find a credit counseling agency?

Your lawyer can direct you to a local nonprofit agency that has been approved to provide credit counseling to bankruptcy petitioners. Alternatively, check with the U.S. Trustee Program (USTP), which maintains a complete list of approved agencies. This list includes agencies that offer sessions in languages other than English.

I can’t afford credit counseling. Are there other options?

Each agency must clearly disclose all fees, including fees for the session and for the certificate. Agencies are also required to disclose information about sessions that are free or available at a reduced rate based on a person’s ability to pay. It is acceptable for a third party to pay the fees on behalf of the petitioner, provided this arrangement is in compliance with all regulations.

Can a debtor have someone else complete credit counseling?

In most cases, the petitioner must complete credit counseling. If married petitioners are filing jointly, they can complete the course together. A third party who has legally valid power of attorney may complete credit counseling on behalf of the petitioner if the petitioner is truly unable to do so. For example, the petitioner may be incarcerated or mentally incapacitated.

What should I expect from credit counseling?

Most sessions only take a couple of hours. Bring documents pertaining to your income and debts. The credit counselor will review this information and determine whether a debt repayment plan might be feasible. If the credit counselor does propose a repayment plan, this document must be filed along with the bankruptcy petition. However, you are not legally required to agree to this repayment plan.

For all of your questions about approved credit counseling and bankruptcy filings, you can turn to the law firm of Cutler & Associates, Ltd.