Bankruptcy’s Most Powerful Protection
The automatic stay is the bankruptcy law’s most powerful provision and immediately stops nearly all creditor actions against a debtor. The automatic stay is invoked upon filing the case – no hearing is necessary and no judge’s signature is required. This powerful injunction is even effective against creditors that have no actual knowledge of the bankruptcy!
Congress has stated that the policy behind the automatic stay is to give the “debtor a breathing spell from his creditors, stopping all collection efforts, all harassment, and all foreclosure actions. It permits the debtor to attempt a repayment or reorganization plan, or simply to be relieved of the financial pressures that drove him into bankruptcy.” See Notes of Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Report No. 95-989. That “breathing spell” is a welcome relief to families with overwhelming financial burdens.
The automatic stay prohibits a creditor with a claim that arose before commencement of the bankruptcy case from taking many actions, including:
- contacting the debtor to request payment (stops collection calls)
- initiating or continuing a lawsuit against the debtor (stops lawsuits)
- enforcing a judgment against the debtor (stops wage garnishments)
- repossessing personal property or foreclosing on real estate (stops repossessions and foreclosure)
The automatic stay is a temporary injunction which can be contested by a creditor and lifted by the bankruptcy court after notice and a hearing. There are a few exceptions to the automatic stay, for instance: the automatic stay does not prevent criminal prosecutions. Likewise the automatic stay does not stop lawsuits to establish or modify alimony, maintenance, or support.
Individuals that file for bankruptcy receive this powerful legal injunction against creditor actions. However, the automatic stay is just one weapon in your bankruptcy attorney’s arsenal. Your bankruptcy attorney can use the power of the bankruptcy laws to help you make the best decisions for your family’s future financial health and recovery.