By law, you must obtain credit counseling before you file for Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The U.S. Bankruptcy Code mandates this for all individuals who file bankruptcy, even if the majority of your debts relate to your business.
Per the U.S. Department of Justice, you must receive this counseling at a state-approved agency. You can find a list of such agencies by going online to the United States Trustee Program website.
Pre-bankruptcy credit counseling is actually a two-step procedure. You must complete your actual credit counseling before you file for bankruptcy, but you must complete your debtor education after you file. Keep in mind that not all approved agencies provide both steps.
The Code presumes that any fee an agency charges you that amounts to $50 or less is reasonable. Agencies may charge more, but they must inform you of their fee(s) upfront before they provide you with any counseling. They cannot, however, deny you service based on your ability to pay. You may qualify for a fee waiver or reduction if you have a household income of less than 150% of the poverty level. In addition, someone other than you can pay your fee for you.
The agency must provide you with a completion certificate when you finish its counseling program. If you lose your certificate, contact the agency where you took your credit counseling and request that it issue a replacement. Obtaining this duplicate can take time, however.
Take good care of your completion certificate and store it in a safe, secure place. You will need to provide it to the court once you file for bankruptcy.