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Is credit counseling required before filing for bankruptcy?

Ohio residents who are considering filing for bankruptcy should be aware that they are required to take two educational courses before their debts will be discharged. The first is a pre-bankruptcy counseling session, and individuals must provide a certificate of completion with their filing paperwork. Another course is also required, and must be completed after filing, which is a post-filing debtor education course.

Both courses may have fees associated with them, although counseling must be provided for free for individuals who are not able to afford it. The counseling session should last between 60 and 90 minutes, and it can take place in person, over the phone or via the Internet. Topics covered will include the debtor's current financial situation, budgeting options and alternatives to filing for bankruptcy.

Once the debtor has completed this course and filed for bankruptcy, he or she must also complete a debtor education course that covers handling money, credit and developing a budget. Until a certificate of completion for this course is provided, the filer's debts will not be discharged. Before taking either course, the Department of Justice's U.S. Trustee Program strongly urges people to ensure that they verify a provider is on the list of approved providers.

Filing for bankruptcy can have a beneficial effect on a debtor's life and finances, but it is important that a bankruptcy is filed correctly to ensure that the protections that the law offers are available. A bankruptcy attorney can help a client understand which type of filing is best for their situation and explain the eligibility requirements. The attorney can also determine whether alternative methods of debt relief may be available.

Source: The Federal Trade Commission, "Filing for Bankruptcy: What to Know", September 21, 2014

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