What can bankruptcy’s automatic stay protect you against?

When your bills begin to spiral out of control, it may prove tremendously unnerving. Additionally, you may find that your stress mounts when creditors begin contacting you and demanding the payments you owe. Depending on circumstances, you may find some relief from creditor harassment by filing for bankruptcy, which initiates something called the “automatic stay.” 

Just what is bankruptcy’s automatic stay, and how could it grant you at least temporary relief from creditor harassment? 

Understanding the automatic stay 

The automatic stay period is something that takes effect as soon as you begin bankruptcy proceedings. In simple terms, it refers to a time in which creditors cannot take action against you or communicate with you. While the duration of the automatic stay period tends to vary, most people who file for personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy find that it lasts between about 90 and 120 days. If you file for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, however, you may find that the automatic stay period lasts for the same duration as your repayment plan. 

Automatic stay protections 

During the automatic stay period, certain creditors are unable to attempt to collect on your debts. If, for example, you have utility companies threatening to turn off your water or electricity, they should be unable to do so as long as the automatic stay is in effect. 

Similarly, depending on the circumstances surrounding your debts, you may be having some of your wages garnished at work to help cover them. Once you initiate bankruptcy proceedings and the automatic stay takes effect, wage garnishments should cease, at least temporarily. If you are also dealing with seemingly non-stop calls from credit card companies looking to collect what you owe them, recognize that bankruptcy’s automatic stay typically also puts an end, at least temporarily, to these calls and communications. 

While these are some of the protections typically allowed under bankruptcy’s automatic stay, please recognize that this is not an exhaustive list of all possible protections the stay period provides.