In most cases, you must get credit counseling from a court-approved agency before you file for bankruptcy. However, there are a few exceptions to this requirement. (To learn about the credit counseling requirement, see The Pre-Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Requirement.)
You don’t have to get counseling if the U.S. Trustee certifies that there is no appropriate agency available to you in the district where you will be filing. However, counseling can be provided by telephone or (usually) online, so it is unlikely that approved debt counseling will ever be “unavailable.”
You can also avoid this requirement if you certify to the court’s satisfaction that:
- You had to file for bankruptcy immediately (perhaps to stop a wage garnishment or foreclosure).
- You were unable to obtain counseling within five days after requesting it.
If you can prove that you didn’t receive credit counseling for these reasons, you must certify that to the court and complete the counseling within 30 days after filing (you can ask the court to extend this deadline by 15 days).
You may also escape the credit counseling requirement if, after notice and hearing, the bankruptcy court determines that you couldn’t participate because of:
- a physical disability that prevents you from attending counseling (this exception probably won’t apply if the counseling is available on the Internet or over the phone)
- mental incapacity (you are unable to understand and benefit from the counseling), or
- your active duty in a military combat zone.
To learn about other requirements and procedures when you file for bankruptcy, see our Bankruptcy Filing & Procedures area.