The following program was produced by the United States Courts. Before you file a bankruptcy case, you must complete credit counseling provided by a government-approved agency. The purpose of this counseling is to explore alternatives to bankruptcy in
your particular situation. You must obtain from the agency a certificate
describing the counseling services you received. This certificate must be filed with the court as an attachment to your statement of compliance
with the credit counseling requirement. There is an official court form that must be used
for this purpose. Approved agencies may be found by calling the
Bankruptcy Court in your area or by accessing a list found on the Bankruptcy
Court’s web site. Many agencies offer on-line counseling sessions. The cost varies and some agencies will reduce or waive the
cost depending on your circumstances. It is important to obtain this counseling
prior to filing. If you do not, the court can dismiss your case
and you may lose any filing fee you’ve already paid. Even if you re-file, you may lose important bankruptcy
rights and may not be able to stop the collection activities of your creditors. You also may be required to pay a second filing
fee. The counseling requirement can be waived
only under very limited circumstances, so you need to understand this requirement
and take care of it before you file. To start a bankruptcy case, you file what is
called a petition with the Bankruptcy Court and the Federal Judicial District and Division
where you live. The petition contains a request for relief under one of the chapters of the Bankruptcy
Code. You must file a statement regarding various
financial matters and disclose all assets and creditors on
forms called “schedules.” And you must fill out a form to show whether or not
you should file under Chapter 13, rather than Chapter 7, given the amount of money that is left over
each month after deducting reasonable household expenses. This form is called the “Means Test Form.” Most debtors must pay a filing fee. The amount of your filing fee depends on the
type of bankruptcy case you file. The fee is payable in cash, certified check, or money order, and may sometimes be paid in four monthly
installments. If your income falls below a certain amount, you may request that the filing fee be waived. If you do not file the required documents
or pay the filing fee in a timely manner, the court may dismiss your case. You must also attend a meeting of creditors, which we’ll talk about next. Failure to attend this meeting may also lead to dismissal.