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What is an automatic stay in chapter 7 bankruptcy?

Most Pennsylvania residents who choose to file bankruptcy have often experienced months of relentless phone calls from debt collectors. These sometimes harassing calls plague those mired in debt, making them afraid to answer their phones in many cases. The "automatic stay" can put an immediate end to these distressful collection attempts. However, while much appreciated, ending debt collection phone calls is not the only benefit of the automatic stay.

The power of the automatic stay works in both chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcies. As its name implies, it works automatically and begins as soon as you file for bankruptcy. Along with putting the endless phone calls to rest, the automatic stay also stops these debt-related activities in their tracks:

-- Lawsuits filed by any person or agency for the purposes of getting money from you

-- Foreclosure proceedings, at least temporarily

-- Disconnection of utilities for at least 20 days

-- Eviction attempts providing your landlord has not already received a court order

-- Wage garnishments, which in some cases can let you receive your entire salary

Even though the automatic stay is an extremely powerful resource for those who need debt relief, there are some things it cannot do. For example, the automatic stay will not help you overcome certain tax proceedings and it cannot stop lawsuits filed for the purposes of collecting child support payments. Despite this, the automatic stay almost always provides immediate relief to those who need it the most.

As you can see, an automatic stay can help you escape imminent actions that may rob you of the time you need to get your life back on track. This is a topic you should consider discussing with the attorney you choose to represent your interests in a chapter 7 or 13 bankruptcy.

Source: FindLaw, "The Automatic Stay: Stopping Creditors with Bankruptcy," accessed Feb. 15, 2016

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