One portion of the bankruptcy process is education, in the form of credit counseling, which is intended to help reduce bankruptcy filings. This occurs before you file for bankruptcy by ensuring that you know your options for dealing with debt. After you file for bankruptcy, the education continues in an effort to help you learn to manage your money in a way that allows you to meet your financial obligations and stay out of bankruptcy court.
Federal law requires that people filing bankruptcy first undergo credit counseling. This counseling must occur 180 days or less before filing for bankruptcy. In order for the counseling to count for that required in bankruptcy cases, the counseling agency must be on the list of approved non-profit agencies maintained by the Department of Justice. The counseling may occur in person or via phone or computer. Even though provided by a non-profit agency, you can expect to pay up to $50 for counseling in order to cover administrative costs.
Additionally, once you have filed for bankruptcy, you will be required to take a debt education course. The provider of your course must also be approved by the Department of Justice. This provider may provide your course in person or via phone or computer. You can typically expect to pay between $50 and $100 for this course.
These two educational experiences must occur at different times. In other words, an offer to complete both credit counseling and debt education at the same time is not permitted. Your attorney can assist you in locating approved, reputable agencies to conduct both your credit counseling and debt education course.
How Credit Counseling can Help
It can be frustrating to learn that you have to complete counseling before you will be allowed to put an end to your debt issues. After all, you do not want another delay in getting relief from your overwhelming debt situation, and you have likely already decided that bankruptcy is your way out. However, there are many benefits to completing credit counseling, even if you do go on to file bankruptcy.
First, credit counseling can help to assure you that you know and have explored all of your debt management options. This includes budgeting, renegotiating loan terms, and other steps which may help you get back on your feet without needing to resort to bankruptcy. If you are behind on your mortgage, car, or other secured debt payments and wish to keep the item secured, credit counseling may help you to bring your debt current. This will make it easier to keep your home or car, so long as you meet all other bankruptcy requirements.
Credit counseling will also enable you to take steps to get your financial life back on track. You will leave your counseling with a plan for dealing with your debt. This plan must be filed with your bankruptcy paperwork. While there is no requirement that you attempt to work the plan created through credit counseling,
Whether or not you take the advice of your credit counselor, your credit counseling can still be helpful. There is no doubt that you do not wish to have to file bankruptcy again. The information you learn in credit counseling can assist you in keeping your finances in good order once your bankruptcy is completed. In Chapter 13 bankruptcy, this advice may also be useful in helping you to stick to the very strict budget required as you complete your payment plan.
Benefits of Having an Attorney During Credit Counseling
The fact that counseling is required prior to filing for bankruptcy may lead you to believe that it should occur prior to contacting an attorney. However, there are many benefits to contacting your attorney before seeking credit counseling.
First, and most importantly, your attorney can help you to determine whether or not bankruptcy is a good option for your situation. Although credit counseling is probably wise in either case, it is helpful to know in advance what your next step after credit counseling will be.
If you do intend to file for bankruptcy, your credit counseling must come from an approved agency. Although it is relatively easy to make sure that your credit counseling agency is approved, working with an agency recommended by your attorney can provide additional peace of mind. There will be no question that the agency’s counseling will meet the requirements, allowing you to file for bankruptcy.
Your attorney will also be able to ensure that you receive the correct paperwork upon completion of the credit counseling. This certificate of completion must be properly filed along with your bankruptcy paperwork in order to get your bankruptcy filing approved.
Bringing your attorney in early in the process will also ensure that your attorney is fully aware of your financial situation. You will be able to provide your attorney with the necessary financial information as you pursue counseling, allowing your attorney to get started on your case. This means that, once your credit counseling is complete, the process of filing for bankruptcy can move more quickly and more smoothly.
An experienced bankruptcy attorney is also helpful in case something goes wrong with your counseling. In some cases, for example, you might wait an extremely long time to receive credit counseling, or may even be unable to locate an agency with time to take your case. This is particularly true during high-volume bankruptcy times, such as just before foreclosures are permitted in the county or state. In this case, without an attorney at your side, you may simply wait, frustrated at the delay. However, an experienced bankruptcy attorney will be able to help you find an efficient counseling agency and if no agency can schedule you in a timely manner, complete the necessary paperwork to file for an exemption to the credit counseling requirement.
Contact an Experienced Atlanta Bankruptcy Lawyer
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, it is never too soon to contact an experienced Atlanta bankruptcy attorney. The attorneys at Cornwell Law Firm will help you through the difficult, complicated process, ensuring that your filing is accepted and that you will have the chance to start your life again, debt-free. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.