In Judge Cox’s Bankruptcy court room this morning I saw a bankruptcy case dismissed for missing one of the hurdles bankruptcy presents to the inexperienced. Judge Cox rightly informed the debtor his only option was to file again. No refund will be issued and he is out $299 in lost filing fees.
The mistake this debtor made is pretty common. Looking to save attorney’s fees this gentleman filed a bankruptcy ‘pro-se’ or without an attorney. His petition was filed and the case was opened. Unfortunately, he had failed to take an accredited credit counseling class.
§ 521(b)(1) of the Bankruptcy Code provides this absolute requirement for people filing bankruptcy: file a certificate from an approved non-profit credit counseling agency. The certificate must also be dated before your date of filing. If you take the class after you file your case will still be dismissed. Finally, you have to file the certificate of credit counseling within the 14 days after you open your case.
This morning Judge Cox asked the gentleman if he had an attorney, which he did not. Then she asked him if he had taken credit counseling before he filed. Judge Cox was plainly unhappy to hear that he had not, and that she had to dismiss the case. Now if this man wants Bankruptcy protection he will have to refile, costing him another $299 for his Chapter 7.
This is a mistake no good attorney will make, but it is frequently made by the pro-se filer. Considering the cost of a filing fee ($299) it is not a painless mistake either. If you are considering filing a bankruptcy, please consider meeting with one of my firm’s skilled attorneys first.