What is the Bankruptcy Counseling Requirement?

A computer with bankruptcy and debt counseling website openBefore filing bankruptcy in Jacksonville, you’re required to complete credit counseling. The Federal Trade Commission states that you must complete this credit counseling from a government approved agency within 180 days of filing. You must also complete a debtor education course after filing in order for your debts to be discharged.

Why is Credit Counseling Required?

The main purpose of credit counseling is to help you evaluate your financial situation and ensure that bankruptcy is a last resort. Through counseling, you’ll determine if there’s a feasible way to handle your debts outside of bankruptcy without increasing what you owe.

Credit counseling is required even if it’s fairly clear that bankruptcy is your only option. So even if your debt is obviously higher than your income, you must meet this requirement when filing bankruptcy in Jacksonville.

How Much Does Credit Counseling Cost?

The approved credit counseling agency you use can charge a reasonable fee for their services. If you’re unable to afford that fee, they’re required to provide the counseling service for free or at a lowered rate. There’s a sliding scale fee structure, and they must waive the fee for those below poverty level.

The Office of the U.S. Trustee oversees credit counseling agencies and the fees they charge. The average fee is around $50. In addition to the credit counseling fee, the debtor education course will be approximately $50-$100. This fee must also be reduced or waived based on the financial circumstances mentioned above.

Pre-Bankruptcy Filing: Credit Counseling Process

Credit counseling must be completed before filing for bankruptcy in Jacksonville or elsewhere. Your pre-bankruptcy credit counseling with your approved agency will include the following:

  • A complete and thorough review of your personal finances.
  • A conversation about the alternatives to filing bankruptcy.
  • Creating a personalized budget plan.

A credit counseling session will last about an hour or so. It may be completed in person, online or over the telephone. Once you’ve completed your credit counseling course, the agency will grant you with a certificate. This certificate is what you’ll need to furnish in order to file bankruptcy.

Post-Bankruptcy Filing: Debtor Education Process

After you have filed for bankruptcy, you’ll be required to complete an approved course on debt. This course must be completed in order for your debts to be discharged. These instructional courses on consumer debt and financial management will include:

  • Instructions on how to develop a budget.
  • Education on how to use credit wisely and responsibly.
  • Teaching you how to manage your money.

Debtor education courses take roughly two hours to complete. You may complete it in person, online or via telephone like the credit counseling sessions. You will again receive a certificate as proof of completion. You’ll need to be present this certificate prior to your discharge.

Exceptions to the Credit Counseling Requirement

If the U.S. Trustee determines that there are no approved agencies in the area you’re filing, you might not have to complete the course. This is unlikely, however, since you can complete counseling online or over the phone.

You might also get out of this requirement if you can prove that you must file for bankruptcy in Jacksonville immediately. This could be the case if you need to avoid foreclosure or wage garnishment.

Other reasons you may be able to avoid the credit counseling requirement include:

  • Not being able to receive counseling within five days of requesting services.
  • Mental instability.
  • Active duty in a combat zone.

Filing Bankruptcy in Jacksonville, FL

If you’re underwater and bankruptcy feels like the only solution, contact the lawyers at Parker & DuFresne. To learn more about the credit counseling requirement, filing bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy process in Florida, call us today at (904) 733-7766.

Sources:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0224-filing-bankruptcy-what-know
https://www.justice.gov/ust/list-credit-counseling-agencies-approved-pursuant-11-usc-111