Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Clarification of Credit Counseling Requirements

A Pennsylvania bankruptcy court has issued a pair of opinions clarifying the credit counseling requirements imposed under BAPCPA. In In re Granda, __ B.R. __, 2005 WL 3348878 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 12/6/05) and In re Skarbek, __ B.R. __, 2005 WL 3348879 (Bankr. W.D. Pa. 12/6/05), the court explained that BAPCPA imposes two separate credit counseling requirements: (1) an individual must receive pre-filing counseling on the opportunities available for credit counseling and a related budget analysis in order to be eligible to file under 11 U.S.C. 109(h); and (2) a debtor must complete post-filing counseling on personal financial management in order to be eligible for a discharge under 11 U.S.C. 727(a)(11).

In Granda and Skarbek, the debtors had filed certifications indicating that prior to filing their petitions, they had "completed an instructional course in personal financial management" provided by an approved instruction provider. The court found that the certification confused the two separate requirements. While the "credit counseling" requirement must be completed prior to filing, the "financial management" course must be completed after filing the petition. Both of the counseling agencies that had "counseled" the debtors indicated that they only provided the first type of services.

As a result, the debtor's certifications that they had completed the "financial management" courses pre-filing were deemed insufficient and stricken, and the debtors ordered to complete post-filing personal financial management courses and to file amended certifications.

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