Ignorance of The Law Will Not Help You in Bankruptcy Court

If you file for bankruptcy obey the Bankruptcy Certification requirements or your debts will not be US Bankruptcy Code is very complicated and has many rules which you must obey or the court will not discharge your debts.

Follow your attorney’s instructions carefully. If you do not have an attorney and you are acting as your own attorney you will be held to the same standards as a licensed attorney. You should carefully review and be familiar with the Bankruptcy Code, Bankruptcy Forms and Bankruptcy Rules.

In 2005 the law was amended to add two new requirements. The Bankruptcy Code now requires that debtors complete a program in Credit Counseling before filing their case with the court. After filing their case with the court the debtor must complete a course in Personal Financial Management before they are eligible to have any of their debts discharged by the court.

Before filing your case with the Bankruptcy Court, a course in Credit Counseling must be completed and a Bankruptcy Counseling Certificate of completion obtained. Credit Counseling must be completed not more than 180 days before filing with the court. The certificate must be filed with the court. (EXH D to Petition). If the case is not filed within the 180 day period counseling must be repeated and an new certificate of counseling must be obtained before filing with the court.

After filing your case you must complete a second course often referred to as a Bankruptcy Discharge Course (this course is sometimes referred to as ‘Personal Financial Management’ or ‘Debtor Education’) and obtain a certificate of completion. Do not take this course until after you file your case with the court and the court assigns a file number to your case. After completing the course in Personal Financial Management you must file a Certificate of Completion with the court (Form 23).

Why is this important? The law requires that Credit Counseling be completed before filing Don’t be fooled by the clerk at the court filing window accepting your filing even if it does not include the Credit Counseling certificate. The clerk at the window is not permitted to make the legal determination that a filing is insufficient or to give you legal advice. Legal determinations are made by the Bankruptcy Judge. If a certificate of Counseling is not filed several things may happen depending on how the assigned Judge handles such matters. If you are lucky the Court may give you a few days to complete Counseling and file the certificate. If you are not lucky the court may simply dismiss your case and if you file again you will have to pay a new filing fee.

The law requires that the course in Personal Financial Management be completed after you file. If you do not complete the Personal Financial Management Course and file the required Certificate of Completion (Form 23) with the Court the Court will close your case without a discharge. This means that all your creditors are free to resume their collection efforts. It may be possible to move the court to reopen your case (requires a fee) and to permit you to complete the course in Personal Financial Management after which the court could enter a discharge..

These are simple rules but failure to comply with them can cause big problems.A debtor is responsible for obeying the rules and simply saying you didn’t understand is not sufficient.