Filing for bankruptcy requires more than just letting the court know you are struggling with money and would like relief from your debts. An important part of the bankruptcy process is counseling. Here’s what you need to know about pre-bankruptcy counseling and how it will play a role in your road to financial recovery.
What is Pre-Bankruptcy Counseling?
Pre-bankruptcy counseling is a requirement of having your bankruptcy request approved. Anyone filing for bankruptcy must participate in a government-approved counseling program. Once completed, you’ll receive a credit counseling certificate from the United States Trustee Program, which is a division of the US Department of Justice. This certificate must be submitted to the bankruptcy court along with your other documents.
Your attorney can help you find a legitimate counseling program or you can view a list of qualifying programs here.
You must participate in a counseling program no more than 180 days prior to filing for bankruptcy and submit your certificate within 15 days of filing for bankruptcy. Counseling sessions typically take about an hour to an hour and a half, and can be done in person or online.
Counseling sessions are specific to your case and you will be asked questions about your financial situation. In addition to providing information about your situation, you’ll be given alternative options to filing for bankruptcy and provided with assistance preparing a budget. One of the main goals of pre-bankruptcy counseling is to help you avoid being taken advantage of and to help you avoid needing to file for bankruptcy multiple times. Pre-counseling is done in an effort to help you, so don’t feel as if you are being forced into something that is not in your best interest.
The Cost of Pre-Bankruptcy Counseling
Some people are surprised to learn that filing for bankruptcy costs money and the fees associated with pre-bankruptcy counseling account for some of the cost. Counseling sessions are usually inexpensive and begin around $50. It is possible to receive free counseling and you can request a payment waiver through the Trustee Program if you are unable to pay.
Pre-bankruptcy counseling is designed to help you better understand bankruptcy and your financial situation in general. However, like many aspects of bankruptcy, it can be intimidating. A bankruptcy attorney can help you choose the right counseling program and ensure any program you choose meets the legal requirements to file for bankruptcy.
If you would like to know more about pre-bankruptcy counseling or you are ready to discuss your financial situation with someone who can provide options, we can help. Contact the Law Offices of Robert M. Geller at 813.254.5696 to schedule a consultation free of charge.