Filing for bankruptcy can be an overwhelming process and there are a few pre- and post-requirements that you need to complete in order to successfully navigate through the bankruptcy process. There is the pre-filling credit counseling certificate that must be completed before you can file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and then there is the post-filing debtor education certificate that you need in order to get your bankruptcy discharge.

What is The Credit Counseling Certificate?

Before you can officially file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy you will need to take a credit counseling course from an accredited agency. In the course, you will explore other options to bankruptcy to ensure that filing for bankruptcy is your best and only option. Once you complete the course, you will receive a certificate of completion that will need to be submitted when you file.

What is the Debtor Education Certificate?

In contrast to the credit counseling course, the debtor education course is taken after you file but must be done before you are granted a discharge from your debts. The debtor education will teach you to review your finances and properly budget expenses so that you do not wind up in the same position you are in now. It is a financial strategy course to help you stay financially healthy after your bankruptcy.

How Can I Get a Credit Counseling Certificate or Debtor Education Certificate?

Both the Credit Counseling Course and the Debtor Education Course must be taken through an accredited agency that is approved by the Office of the U.S. Trustee. Courses are at least 2 hours in length and must cover a specific curriculum. Courses can be offered in person, online, or through the mail. Also, agencies must allow you to pay on a sliding scale if you are unable to pay the full course fee.

You can find approved agencies in your area by visiting the U.S. Trustee’s website at www.justice.gov/ust. Click on “Credit Counseling & Debtor Education” in the left column.

Who Has To Take The Debtor Education Course?

Everyone who files for bankruptcy must complete the Debtor Education Course. Failing to complete the course will result in your bankruptcy case being closed without discharge of your debts. If this happens, you will have to reopen the case and pay another filing fee.

There are very few circumstances in which the requirement for the course would be waived. They are:

  • The individual is on Active Duty in the military and is currently in a combat zone.
  • The individual has certain disabilities that would make it impossible for them to complete the course.

Deadline For Filing The Debtor Education Certificate?

Once you complete the course and are given a certificate of completion, you will have to file it along with a Official Form 423 Certification of a Financial Management Course.

If you are filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, the Form 423 and the certificate within 45 days of the date your meeting with the creditors was first scheduled. If you miss this deadline, our case could be closed – and to reopen it, you would have to repay the filing fee.

If you are filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, the Form 423 and the certificate no later than the date of your last payment. This means that you will have more time in which to take and complete the course but since it provides valuable information on how to better control your finances, it is recommended to take the course sooner rather than later.