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Before You File

Have you completed credit counseling?

Credit counseling from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency is a requirement for filing bankruptcy in all but very limited circumstances. Credit counseling must be completed during the 180 days leading up to your bankruptcy filing. You have until the end of the day on which you file bankruptcy to obtain credit counseling.

Credit counseling is available via telephone, the internet, or in person. These agencies charge a fee for their services, which may be waived on a case-by-case basis.

If you do not complete counseling by the day you file your bankruptcy petition and you do not meet the requirements for an extension to complete the counseling after your bankruptcy filing:

  • Your case may be DISMISSED without a refund of any filing fee paid;
  • You WILL NOT receive a DISCHARGE of your debts; and
  • If you REFILE within ONE YEAR after dismissal, protection under the Bankruptcy Code from your creditors (i.e., the automatic stay) may be limited to thirty days.

The court can allow you to complete the course after filing only if you meet all of the following conditions:

  1. Prior to filing your petition, you and your spouse (if filing a joint bankruptcy petition) must have requested credit counseling services from an approved nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency but were unable to obtain the services during the 7-day period following your request.
  2. There are exigent (emergency) circumstances that make it necessary for you to file your case immediately.  It is important to know that the court will determine what qualifies as an emergency circumstance.
  3. You must file a certification stating the facts regarding conditions 1 and 2 above with your bankruptcy petition.  Local Bankruptcy Form 1007-1 is available from the clerk for this purpose.

The decision to file a bankruptcy petition is up to you but, if you file it without taking a credit counseling course, you are risking dismissal of your case. The clerk cannot provide legal advice or predict how a judge will decide your motion for an extension of time to complete the credit counseling requirement. For more information about the credit counseling requirement, click here.

Debtor's Duties under Section 521

Debtors should be aware of their duties under Section 521 of the Bankruptcy Code to file certain documents. Failing to do so could result in the dismissal of the bankruptcy case. If individual chapter 7 or 13 debtors do not file certain information required by Section 521(a)(1) within 45 days after the filing of the petition, the case will be automatically dismissed on the 46th day after the date of the filing of the petition in accordance with Local Bankruptcy Rule 1007-8.