The automatic stay: It stops bill collectors in their tracks

Compared to many laws on the books in the U.S., the bankruptcy code sometimes seems like magic. For no other reason than you have a right to apply for it and a desire to wipe out debt, you can petition the bankruptcy court to either eliminate your debts and/or pay them back for pennies on the dollar. The moment you enter the magical world of bankruptcy it my feel like you have stepped into a protective bubble in which the torture of financial stress does not exist. The exterior lining of the bubble might be the automatic stay provision.

When a petition for bankruptcy relief is filed and accepted by the bankruptcy court, the automatic stay provision is effective and remains in place until the bankruptcy is over. As a debtor, you do not have to do anything to use your automatic stay benefit. Rather, all your listed creditors should receive notice sent by your bankruptcy attorney informing them about the bankruptcy and the law prohibiting collection of debts while you are in a bankruptcy case.

The automatic stay provision in the bankruptcy code has the following direct affects:

  • No wage garnishments are allowed. Some people have multiple wage garnishments and creditors in line to garnish wages. When wages are garnished to pay off judgments it can be tough to keep up with the current food, housing and utilities payments. When there is not enough cash flow to live and the situation is based on fixed income, bankruptcy and the automatic stay will allow you to take home your entire salary.
  • The government cannot claw back overpayments of benefits. Public benefit payments are usually recollected through deductions on future benefit checks and through billing the recipient. The automatic stay provision, however, only applies when you are still eligible to receive public benefits.
  • Evictions are stopped in most cases*[i]. If your landlord already has an order of possession to kick you out, the automatic stay is not going to help you. But if there has not been an eviction procedure yet filed, you might be able to use the automatic stay provision to stay in the home for a few days or weeks.
  • Foreclosure proceedings are stopped. Once your bankruptcy is over and the automatic stay is lifted a bank holding a delinquent mortgage over your head may still be able to continue foreclosure proceedings. Many people who want to keep their home use a Chapter 13 bankruptcy when they might not otherwise be able to stay in their home with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  • Your utilities cannot be disconnected. This is not a permanent bar to disconnect, but the automatic stay will help you keep the phone, gas, water or electric on for at least 20 days.

These are a few of the ways you can take advantage of the bankruptcy code and the automatic stay provision to stop collectors and keep your salary while you go through the process of getting a fresh financial start.

There are several general rules and exceptions to them in bankruptcy. The difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 is also significant and it is important to hire an experienced bankruptcy attorney when you want to make the best of your decision to file for bankruptcy.

Joseph Wrobel, Ltd. helps people get control of their finances and a fresh start at financial freedom. The firm’s website contains informative videos about financial issues as well as bankruptcy protection for families who want a fresh start. To keep in touch and read about consumer finance news and stories you can Like the firm’s Facebook page and Follow Joseph Wrobel. Ltd. on Twitter. If you need immediate legal assistance, please call Joseph Wrobel, Ltd. by calling (312) 781-0996 to talk to an attorney today.

[i] *While the automatic stay may be able to stall an eviction, there are certain situations in which you could still be removed from your home and a bankruptcy attorney can best explain what might happen to you based on the facts and circumstances involved.