How to file for bankruptcy

Debtors in Arizona may benefit from some information about filing for bankruptcy. In order to receive the protections provided by bankruptcy status, debtors are required to attend a government-approved credit counselor within 180 days before filing. In addition, before any outstanding balance can be discharged, applicants are required to complete a debt education course after filing for bankruptcy.

The U.S. Trustee Program, operating within the Department of Justice, is the authority that approves the debt educators and counselors available to bankruptcy applicants in every state except North Carolina and Alabama, where court officials handle those approvals. Bankruptcy law requires applicants to choose an approved credit counselor who operates in the debtor's judicial district. Lists of counselors are provided online or at the bankruptcy clerk's office inside the district.

The debtor education course may take longer than the pre-filing counseling. Debtors who cannot afford the two curriculum requirements may qualify to have the fees waived. Debtors are expected to obtain certificates as proof of completion of each course. The credit counseling session may occur online, over the phone or in person. Debtors typically work with counselors on evaluating their finances, exploring alternative resolutions besides bankruptcy and developing a budget plan.

People who are unable to repay debt may benefit from speaking with a lawyer about filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Legal counsel can help describe the requirements of each type of bankruptcy employed under specific circumstances. Bankruptcy lawyers may also be able to help prevent creditors from harassing the debtor as well. Legal representation has helped many debtors retain specific assets of value or avoid foreclosure. Aside from debt relief, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy lawyer might be able to prevent wage and bank garnishments as well.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, "Filing for Bankruptcy: What to Know", September 15, 2014

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