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Once your Statement of Current Monthly Income is complete and it is determined that you are a qualified candidate for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy with enough disposable income to fund a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Plan, I will then instruct you to complete a Credit Counseling Course which is the next step in the bankruptcy process.  The completion of a Credit Counseling Course is required by the Bankruptcy Code.1 I will give you a list of credit counseling agencies approved by the United States Trustee and answer any questions about the course you may have before you start.

After you select an approved agency, you can take the course in person, or, more conveniently, online or on the telephone in the comfort of your own home.  The course takes approximately one hour in total to complete.

Quick Tip: If you take your credit counseling course online (versus in person or on the phone) you can start it and stop it as many times as you need to, like a DVD.  This is usually more convenient for people who have jobs and children!

The course customarily consists of an introductory briefing and a budget analysis.  At the conclusion of the session, you will be given a final briefing on your options in bankruptcy as well as non-bankruptcy alternatives.  The class is rather straightforward and nothing to be nervous about.

Most approved agencies charge $30 to $50 for an individual and may give a discount to a married couple.  It is important to note that the credit counseling course must be done within the 180 days before the day you file your petition and may not be done on the day you file.  There are few exceptions to the credit counseling requirement (e.g. exigent circumstances, etc.) but failure to comply with the credit counseling requirement, unless otherwise ordered by the Bankruptcy Court, could result in a dismissal of your case.

Upon completion of the course you will be given a “Certificate” of completion.  You can instruct the agency to deliver a copy of the certificate to my office via e-mail or fax, or you can send me a copy yourself.  Your certificate will ultimately be delivered to the Bankruptcy Court upon filing of your Bankruptcy Petition along with an “Exhibit D” called the “Individual Debtor’s Statement of Compliance with Credit Counseling,” which you will sign under oath stating that you completed the course within the required time period before your filing and completed it with an approved agency.

The next step in the Bankruptcy process is to return to my office for the signing and filing of your Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and Plan.  In the next few installments of this Chapter 13 Blog Series I will explain each section of a typical Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Petition and a Chapter 13 Plan, so you will have a preview of what you will be reading and signing before we meet again.

For more information on Credit Counseling or for a free consultation, please contact Attorney Theresa DeGray at 203-713-8877.

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1See 11U.S.C. § 109(h)