What Are the Credit Counseling Requirements?
The amendments to the Bankruptcy Code that became law in 2005 require everyone with primarily consumer debt to obtain two counseling certificates from approved credit counseling agencies.
The first certificate is known as a “certificate of counseling.” You must obtain this certificate of counseling before your bankruptcy petition can be filed with the Bankruptcy court. The certificate is valid for 180 days. The certificate must be valid on the date your bankruptcy petition is filed, which means that you must have obtained it within 180 days before your bankruptcy petition is filed.
The second certificate is known as a “certificate of debtor education,” and is issued when you complete a financial management course. You cannot take the financial management course until your bankruptcy petition is filed with the Bankruptcy court, because you must have your case number that is generated when your bankruptcy petition is filed in order to register for the financial management course. The certificate of debtor education must be filed with the Bankruptcy court, which provides your Bankruptcy judge the authority to grant your bankruptcy discharge. It is wise to take the financial management course soon after your bankruptcy petition is filed.
These two certificates, the certificate of counseling and the certificate of debtor education, are issued by credit counseling agencies that have been approved by the US Trustee’s office. I provide you with a choice of several approved credit counseling agencies.
How Do You Obtain the Certificate of Counseling?
Generally, you must have available and provide the following to the credit counseling agency: 1) your monthly gross income and all payroll deductions, and all other sources of income that you receive (such as Social Security income, disability benefits, pension and retirement benefits, spousal support, child support); 2) a list of all your monthly living expenses; 3) all the items of property you own (home, vehicles, personal property, and all other types of property); 4) all your debts that you owe, with approximate amounts of each debt. At the conclusion of this session, the counseling agency will generally issue you the certificate of counseling.
How Do You Obtain the Certificate of Debtor Education?
First, you register for the financial management course with one of the approved credit counseling agencies. If you are taking the course online, you will be prompted to watch some videos and/or read materials the credit counseling agency you choose provides, and you may need to answer questions at the end of the course. You may also take the financial management course by telephone or in person. Each approved credit counseling agency develops its own financial management course. When you complete the financial management course, the credit counseling agency issues the certificate of debtor education.