Bankruptcy involves a few mandatory steps, including two educational course requirements. The first course occurs before the debtor even files for bankruptcy, and is called “credit counseling.” The second course occurs after filing but prior to discharge, and is called “pre-discharge debtor education” or simply “debtor education.” Regardless of whether a person is filing under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, most Pennsylvania debtors are required to complete both courses in order to finish their cases and get debt relief. Our Philadelphia bankruptcy attorneys explain the purpose of these two courses, and list some of the approved agencies that offer in-person or online credit counseling and debtor education services in Pennsylvania.
What is the Purpose of Credit Counseling and Debtor Education?
Prior to 2005, credit counseling and debtor education requirements did not exist for Pennsylvania debtors (or, for that matter, debtors anywhere else within the United States). Both requirements were established in 2005 by the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA), which also made many other changes to existing U.S. bankruptcy regulations, such as requiring filers to produce proof of their income via federal tax returns.
The purpose of bankruptcy credit counseling – which, to reiterate, must be completed before filing a bankruptcy petition – is simply to determine whether bankruptcy is really the best way for the debtor to address his or her financial situation. Through credit counseling, some debtors discover that there are other, more suitable alternatives to bankruptcy that work better for their needs.
Before you can declare bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you must be able to prove that you completed a DOJ-approved credit counseling course during the previous 180 days. As proof, you can use your certificate of completion, which you will receive from the credit counseling agency once you have finished the course successfully. Your Philadelphia Chapter 7 lawyer will make sure that your certificate of completion makes it into the right hands before the deadline passes.
Debtor education occurs much later in the bankruptcy process, though the exact timing depends on which chapter you file under. If you file under Chapter 7, you must take the debtor education course and file the corresponding certificate of completion within 60 days of your first 341 meeting, or meeting of creditors. If you file under Chapter 13, you will need to file your certificate before making your final payment, which may occur anywhere from three to five years after the date you declare bankruptcy.
List of DOJ-Approved Credit Counseling and Debtor Education Courses
Most credit counseling and debtor education courses are administered online, which makes them convenient for debtors no matter where in Pennsylvania they are located. You may also attend a class in person, or even take a course over the phone, depending on the agency.
However, regardless of which method you choose, it is critically important that you select an agency which has been approved by the Department of Justice. Otherwise, you will not receive credit, and will not be able to advance your bankruptcy case.
The following is not a complete or exhaustive list of approved agencies, but will help to give you a few ideas for getting started. We encourage our readers to explore the full list of DOJ-approved debtor education and credit counseling courses, which is available on the DOJ’s website. To view the DOJ’s complete list of debtor education and credit counseling agencies, simply visit justice (dot) gov (slash) ust, click on the “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” link, and follow the prompts.
PA Credit Counseling Courses for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13
- Credit Counseling Courses Online
- 1$ Wiser Consumer Education, Inc.
- Abacus Credit Counseling
- Big Step Training, LLC
- Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.
- Debt Counseling Corp.
- Evergreen Financial Counseling
- Family Financial Education Foundation
- Philadelphia Credit Counseling Courses
- Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley
- Money Management International, Inc.
PA Debtor Education Courses for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13
- Debtor Education Courses Online
- 247 Bankruptcy Class, Inc.
- Access Counseling, Inc.
- BK Education Services
- Debt Education and Certification Foundation
- Financial Education Services, Inc.
- GreenPath, Inc.
- Philadelphia Debtor Education Courses
- Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Delaware Valley
Philadelphia Bankruptcy Lawyers for Chapter 7 and Chapter 13
Do you need help finding debtor education online? Are you looking for credit counseling in Philadelphia? Do you have other questions about the bankruptcy requirements in Pennsylvania, such as Pennsylvania’s residency requirements, or how bankruptcy means testing works?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, and you’re worried about how you’re going to pay your bills or prevent your home from being foreclosed upon, we encourage you to contact our Philadelphia Chapter 13 lawyers for a free legal consultation. Our bankruptcy attorneys can help you determine whether bankruptcy is right for you, and if so, which chapter is most appropriate. After we examine your financial situation and your goals for the future, we can provide you with a clear, straightforward assessment you can trust.
To talk about your Pennsylvania bankruptcy case in a free legal consultation with a Montgomery County Chapter 7 lawyer, Montgomery County Chapter 13 lawyer, Delaware County Chapter 7 lawyer, or Delaware County Chapter 13 lawyer, call Sadek & Cooper Law Offices at (215) 995-2543. We serve business owners, individuals, and jointly filing married couples throughout the Philadelphia area.