Credit counseling is a precursor to both filing for bankruptcy and to getting a bankruptcy discharge. After bankruptcy, the tools you learned in your sessions can help you manage your debt and slowly rebuild your credit. With the help of Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy attorneys at Anidjar & Levine, you may be able to unburden yourself of oppressive debt by undergoing credit counseling as part of the bankruptcy process.Credit Counseling before Filing for Bankruptcy
All prospective bankruptcy filers are required to undergo credit counseling prior to filing. You must receive credit counseling from a government-approved organization within 180 days before you file a petition for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You may be charged up to $50 for the credit counseling session, but you can obtain a waiver if you cannot afford the fee. You are presumed eligible for a fee waiver if your household income is below 150 percent of the poverty line. If you qualify, be sure to get a fee waiver before you attend your session.
At the counseling session, the counselor will review your income and your debt to see if there is a feasible way to manage it without filing for bankruptcy. The counselor will also set up a personalized budget for you. The session may be done in person, over the phone, or online. Once you finish, you will receive a certificate of completion that serves as proof that you underwent credit counseling. You must submit the certificate to the court in which you filed for bankruptcy no later than 15 days after you filed.Debtor Education
You must take a debtor education course from an approved agency after you file for bankruptcy but before you receive a bankruptcy discharge . The sessions are typically longer than a credit counseling session. The course will cover topics that will help you manage your finances, such as developing a budget. You can complete the course in person, over the phone, or online. If you do it online or via phone, you will have to take a test before finishing the course. There is a fee associated with the course, but you can pay based on a sliding scale. You can also request a waiver if you cannot afford the fee.
You will receive a certificate once you complete the course. You must submit this certificate to the court as proof that you met the debtor education requirement. If you filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 7, you should submit the certificate, along with Official Form 23, within 45 days of the first date of your meeting with creditors. If you filed for Chapter 13, you must submit the certificate and Official Form 23 no later than the last payment you made as part of your debt repayment plan.Selecting a Credit Counselor
If you are filing for bankruptcy, it is important to select a credit counselor who is approved by the U.S. Trustee Program and located in the jurisdiction where you filed. Once you have a list of the organizations in your area, you can gather information that will help you decide which of them best meets your needs. You can ask about:
- Services offered, associated fees, and fee waivers
- Credit counselor qualifications, training, and certifications
- Whether they can develop a long-term plan to help you manage your debt
- How and when they offer their services
Credit counseling is not just a necessary step in the bankruptcy process. It can also put you on a path to better debt management and to rebuilding your life after you complete bankruptcy.Knowledgeable Bankruptcy Lawyers in the Hollywood Area
Credit counseling is a key part of the bankruptcy process and long-term debt management. At Anidjar & Levine, we can assess the specifics of your case and discuss whether you can benefit from credit counseling and bankruptcy. Our Hollywood bankruptcy lawyers are prepared to answer your questions, and we can represent you if you decide to move forward with Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Call our office today at (800) 747-FREE or fill out our contact form for a free and confidential consultation.