Do I have to attend credit counseling before I can file for bankruptcy?

Yes. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) requires that debtors participate in mandatory credit counseling within the 180 days prior to filing for bankruptcy. The clerk of the court will maintain a list of education courses and approved credit counseling agencies. You will first have a briefing, which will be either individual or group, and it may take place in person, over the telephone, or on the Internet. Furthermore, the briefing must outline the opportunities for credit counseling and aid in your budget analysis. 

Although the credit counseling is mandatory, a small number of exceptions are included, such as when there are no approved credit counselors in a district or when the debtor is incapacitated. 

The law also contains provisions requiring the filing of certain materials with the bankruptcy court. For example, if a debt management plan is developed during credit counseling, the plan must be filed with the bankruptcy court. You are also required to file a certificate from the credit counseling agency detailing the services provided. 

For more information, see: 11 U.S.C. § 111 (2015); The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, 109 P.L. 8 § 105-106 (2005); Federal Trade Commission, Before You File for Personal Bankruptcy: Information About Credit Counseling and Debtor Education, .