Everyone who wants to file for bankruptcy has to take a credit counseling course before they can do so. While there is a small cost associated with this requirement, it is possible to take the required course for free by requesting a fee waiver.
Written by the Upsolve Team.
Updated July 22, 2020
Everyone that wants to file for bankruptcy has to take a credit counseling course. This course it mandatory and it must be done in the 180 days before filing your case. Assuming there is at least one credit counseling provider approved for your district, failure to take this course before filing can result in your case being thrown out (dismissed). Courses are typically offered online or over the phone. Some districts also have credit counseling agencies offering it in person for folks who prefer to meet with a credit counselor face to face. The Court can waive the requirement, but only if it determines that you’re unable to complete it due to incapacity, disability, or active military duty in a military combat zone. In other words, having the requirement itself waived is very difficult.
How Can I Get Free Bankruptcy Credit Counseling?
It’s possible to take the credit counseling course for free by having the fee for it waived. Most credit counseling providers charge a fee of $10 - $50 for the course. However, the bankruptcy laws and rules implemented by the Office of the U.S. Trustee make it clear that your ability to pay ultimately determines whether they can charge you for their service. While each provider has a different policy for handling fee waiver requests, if your income is below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines, it’s presumed that you are eligible for a fee waiver.
How do I fill out a fee waiver for the credit counseling course?
Generally, the credit counseling agency that you decide to use will ask if you want to apply for a fee waiver. If yes, the credit counseling agency may ask for items such as proof of income, a completed budget worksheet, and a completed application. This information will determine if your request for a fee waiver will be approved by the agency. If the fee waiver is approved you will then be provided with the free credit counseling course. Some steps explained in more detail below can help you with fee waiver process in general and familiarize you with the site for one of the approved credit counseling agencies, DebtorCC.org.
Create an Account at DebtorCC.org
Begin your process by going to www.debtorcc.org. You can use any approved agency. However, Upsolve believes DebtorCC provides the most user friendly experience. You will then see two options a Pre-filing Credit Counseling option and a Post-filing Debtor Education option. Please select the Pre-filing Credit Counseling option. Even though it says $14.95 disregard this at the moment. After you select the Pre-filing Credit Counseling course you will need to create an account using your first name, last name, email address, and a password of your choice.
Fill out the credit counseling fee waiver application
After you have created an account and provided some basic information, you will come to a page entitled “First Course-Fee Waiver Eligibility.” This page will ask if you would like to apply for a fee waiver. Select the option for a fee waiver request and download the application for a fee waiver.
The questions on the application mostly revolve around your income and your household size. Try to have two paycheck stubs available and your W2s from last year. If you are on a fixed income, find your social security award letter, unemployment earnings letter, or other document showing how much you get each week or month. The application will also ask about any assets you may have, such as checking and savings accounts, cars you own free and clear, jewelry, furniture and cash. You will have to list the value of each of those items as part of your fee waiver application. You will have to do this again when preparing your bankruptcy forms, so be sure to keep track of the information and you won’t have to figure it out all over again later.
Wait 72 hours to see if it’s approved. (You’ll get an email)
After you have completed the application, sign it and send it along with all supporting documents to email@example.com. The supporting documents are your paycheck stubs, W2s, or other information regarding any other sources of income you may have. Once the application and all documents are submitted, you’ll receive a response within 72 hours to let you know if your fee waiver application has been approved. You will be notified by email, so make sure to keep an eye on that. If you have any questions regarding the response, you can contact DebtorCC directly to get answers.
What if My Bankruptcy Credit Counseling Waiver is Denied?
If your fee waiver application for a free credit counseling course is denied you can still take the course with DebtorCC.org, but you’ll have to pay $14.95 for it. The credit counseling course is required by the Bankruptcy Code and you can’t file bankruptcy without it. That’s why completing the course and getting a certificate verifying that you’ve done it is so important. Also, remember to keep in mind the big picture. It may hurt to pay $14.95 now, but remember how much debt are you able to eliminate once your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is filed with the Court.