People often ask, “I have debt, how can I file bankruptcy?” While on its face, this is a simple question, it does require a number of things to be completed first.

First, sit down with a knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney in your area. Making the decision to file bankruptcy can have several ramifications; from impacting co-debtors and your credit report to protecting your assets and wiping away certain debts. A bankruptcy attorney can help you determine if filing bankruptcy is the best option for your debt and asset situation while flagging potential risks associated with a bankruptcy.

Second, make the decision to file bankruptcy and begin gathering the necessary documentation to complete the bankruptcy petition. The filing of a bankruptcy involves numerous documents and records that you and your attorney will review and may take a few weeks to gather. This ranges from credit card statements to vehicle title information. This is the most challenging and time-consuming task prior to filing bankruptcy because it may involve you going to various county or government offices to obtain documents.

Third, complete a credit counseling course. Every debtor filing a bankruptcy petition must complete a credit counseling course prior to filing the bankruptcy petition. These courses are approved by the U.S. Trustee’s Office, generally cost less than $30, and can be completed from your personal computer in under an hour. If you are married, you and your spouse will take the course together. Once you’ve completed the course, your certificate of completion will be filed with the court at the time of filing the bankruptcy petition.

Fourth, once a bankruptcy petition is completed, you will meet with your attorney to review, sign, and file the petition. Someone is not “in” bankruptcy until the signed petition has been filed with the bankruptcy court.

If you are contemplating bankruptcy, have a consultation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney to get the information you need to make the right decision. Filing a bankruptcy petition may not be the best decision for everyone but when it is, the results can be amazing!