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Pre-Bankruptcy Counseling

If you think you may have to file for bankruptcy, there are a few steps you need to take first. Pre-bankruptcy counseling with a nonprofit credit counseling agency is required before filing for  bankruptcy. What exactly is pre-bankruptcy counseling? How much does it cost? ACCC explains everything you need to know about the process!

Pre-bankruptcy counseling de-mystified.

Pre-bankruptcy counseling de-mystified.

What is pre-bankruptcy counseling?     

This type of credit counseling is sometimes referred to as a budget briefing. It includes analysis of your current financial condition, a review of factors that led to this condition, information about alternatives to bankruptcy, and assistance developing a plan to respond to the financial condition without incurring more debt. Before you start the counseling session, you will need to gather your relevant financial information. This includes your monthly household income, expenses, asset information (vehicles, real-estate, retirement accounts), and unsecured debt.

On average, the counseling session takes about 60-90 minutes to complete. After completing the pre-bankruptcy counseling session, you will get a certificate that is good for six months after the counseling session. With ACCC, the counseling session costs $49 per household.

What are the next steps?

After you complete the pre-bankruptcy counseling session, you will need to file the proper forms. Filing for bankruptcy will cost between $300 and $350 for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. You also may need a bankruptcy attorney to help navigate the process. The cost of an attorney will vary depending on your situation.

Before your debts are discharged, but after you file for bankruptcy, you will also have to take a debtor education course. This course includes information and instruction on budget development, money management, wise use of credit, and consumer information. Debtor education courses take a bit longer than the initial pre-bankruptcy counseling session, at a minimum of two hours. The cost of a debtor education course with ACCC is $39 per household.

How does bankruptcy affect credit?

Chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for up to ten years, while Chapter 13 will stay on for seven. Bankruptcy will cause your credit score to drop drastically. It can take a long time to build your credit back up, which is why bankruptcy is a last resort option.

Besides the obvious credit problems, not all of your debts will be discharged if you file for bankruptcy. Tax debts, alimony, child support, and other divorce-related debt will not go away.

Are there alternatives to bankruptcy?

Again, bankruptcy is a last resort option, so before you look into filing, you should explore other options. It can be very stressful to deal with an immense amount of debt on your own, but bankruptcy may not be necessary for you. Calling a credit counseling agency and inquiring about a debt management plan can be a good first step. The credit counselor will talk to you about your debt and come up with a reasonable budget for you. They may enroll you in a debt management plan, which will allow you to consolidate your debts into one monthly payment. The payment will also be lower than what you would be paying otherwise, since the credit counseling agency will have negotiated lower interest rates and waived fees with the creditors. ACCC’s debt management plan typically has consumers pay off their debt in less than five years.

If you are struggling to pay off your debt, ACCC can help. Sign up for a free credit counseling session today.       


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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