Before you can file for bankruptcy, you must undergo credit counseling with an approved vendor and submit the certificate of completion with your paperwork. Unfortunately, credit counseling companies charge for the service and, when you don't have two nickels to rub together, it can be challenging drumming up the money to pay. However, here are two things you can do to take care of the bill.
Ask for a Sliding Scale Fee
Credit counseling companies can charge whatever they want for their service as long as the fee is a reasonable amount. Luckily, the bankruptcy court requires them to provide alternative payment options for petitioners who cannot afford the regular price. As such, this typically results in the company charging clients on a sliding scale.
For example, if the company normally charges $50, you may qualify for a reduced rate of $25 if your income is below a certain level. Those whose incomes fall 150 percent below the poverty level may even have the fee waived altogether.
Each company will have their own income guidelines detailing who qualifies for lower or waived fees, so you would need to call each one—or visit their website—for information about their qualification requirements. It may be quicker, though, to contact a bankruptcy attorney and have the lawyer recommend someone to you, so be sure to explore that option before spending an afternoon calling every credit counselor in town.
Fundraise from Your Social Network
Another option is to ask people in your social network for the funds to pay the fee. Unlike other fees you may have to cover in the course of your chapter 13 bankruptcy filing, the credit counseling cost can be paid by anyone and the money doesn't need to be accounted for. So, you can ask your brother to float you the cash and pay him back at a later date when you're more financially stable, for example.
Alternatively, there may be local charity programs that can provide money for your legal costs directly or help free up cash for fees by paying other bills. For instance, some non-profits will pay your heating bill and you, in turn, can use the money you would've spent on the bill to pay the credit counseling cost.
Again, a bankruptcy attorney is a good source for ideas and information about getting the funds you need to pay this and other fees associated with your case. Thus, it's best to contact a local lawyer for assistance.