As soon as you file bankruptcy, an automatic stay takes effect. The automatic stay requires most of your creditors to stop all collection efforts.
The stay prevents bill collectors from calling you or sending you threating letters. It requires most lawsuits to collect a debt to be put on hold. Unless and until they get permission from the court to do so, it prevents landlords from starting an eviction and mortgage lenders from pursuing a foreclosure.
Most wage garnishments must cease, giving you the benefit of a full paycheck again.
When does the automatic stay take effect?
The automatic stay takes effect the instant you file your bankruptcy petition. You do not need to ask for the stay. The stay is entered automatically when the Bankruptcy Court accepts your petition for filing.
When are creditors notified of the automatic stay?
The bankruptcy petition that you file will include a list of all your creditors, as well as the attorneys and bill collectors those creditors are using to collect their debt from you. Also included with your petition is a “mailing matrix,” which is a formatted list of the names and addresses of those creditors and bill collectors.
The court will send notice of the automatic stay to each of your creditors shortly after you file your bankruptcy. The court uses the mailing matrix to the print envelopes for the automatic stay notices, so it is important that your mailing matrix is accurate and complete. Your attorney will prepare the matrix but you will need to provide your attorney with a complete list of your creditors, as well as the names and addresses of the collection agencies that have contacted you.
Your creditors will receive notice of the automatic stay within a few days after you file bankruptcy. They are required to stop calling and writing you as soon as they receive that notice.
What do I do if a bill collector calls after I file bankruptcy?
Your creditors will not know you filed bankruptcy until they receive notice from the Bankruptcy Court. If you receive a call from a bill collector shortly after you file your bankruptcy, tell the bill collector that you filed bankruptcy and that an automatic stay is in effect. Once the bill collector is notified that an automatic stay is in effect, the bill collector can be sanctioned if he or she does not cease all collection efforts.
If the bill collector calls again or continues to demand payment of the debt after you advise the bill collector of your bankruptcy filing, or if you continue to receive collection letters more than a week after your petition has been filed, contact your bankruptcy attorney. Your attorney will warn the bill collector of the sanctions that the Bankruptcy Court can impose if the bill collector continues to ignore the automatic stay. That warning is usually enough to convince the bill collector to stop contacting you, but if you continue to be harassed by collection efforts, your attorney can ask the Bankruptcy Court to impose sanctions for an intentional violation of the automatic stay.
Bankruptcy is complex and many answers depend upon your specific situation. If you still have questions you can schedule a free consultation with a bankruptcy attorney.