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The U.S. Bankruptcy Code includes several requirements for filers in Ohio and across the country. One of these for anyone who plans to file a Chapter 7, 11, 12 or 13 bankruptcy is completing a credit counseling course through an approved agency, according to the United States Department of Justice.

Typically, agencies charge a fee for the class, and may also charge for the certificate required to begin the bankruptcy process. However, all agencies must offer fee waivers to people without the ability to pay. If a husband and wife are filing jointly, they may take the class together.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission explains that the course must be taken within the 180 days before filing bankruptcy. Most counseling programs last an hour to an hour-and-a-half, and they are often offered online or by phone as well as in person. During the class, participants will receive instruction in the following:

  • An assessment of the personal financial circumstances
  • Options that may be available other than bankruptcy
  • A plan for a budget

Before debts can be discharged in the bankruptcy, filers must take a second course. This one is geared toward debt education, and includes the following information:

  • How to develop a budget
  • How to manage money
  • How to use credit wisely

These courses typically last a couple of hours, and upon completion, participants receive a certificate.

The U.S. Trustee’s website has a list of approved agencies that offer pre-bankruptcy counseling and post-bankruptcy debtor education for each judicial district. It is a good idea to ask questions regarding the qualifications of the counselors, the security of personal information and what services the agency offers before signing up for a course.