The constant reminder of your financial difficulties is not only annoying, but can cause severe stress and anxiety. One of the many benefits of bankruptcy, whether filing a chapter 7 bankruptcy or a chapter 13 bankruptcy, is that something called an automatic stay goes into effect. This stay automatically prohibits most efforts to collect on any debts that were obtained prior to filing the bankruptcy, which include lawsuit proceedings, wage garnishments, and harassing letters or telephone calls. If you are attempting to save your home from foreclosure, this stay can even stop or postpone sale dates on properties.
How long you have protection through this automatic stay depends on which type of bankruptcy you decide to file. When you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, the automatic stay typically remains in effect from the day that you file the bankruptcy case to about 45 days after the first 341 Meeting of Creditors. When you file a chapter 13 bankruptcy, this stay typically remains in effect until the bankruptcy case has been dismissed, the bankruptcy case has been closed, the creditor asks the court permission to lift the stay, or the debtor has been granted a discharge.
If creditors contact you in attempt to collect on a debt that you incurred before you filed bankruptcy, they may be in violation of the automatic stay. Under 11 U.S.C. Section 362(k), it allows the imposition of sanctions where a debtor suffers from a creditor’s willful violation of the automatic stay. A willful violation of the automatic stay occurs when the creditor knew that there would be a violation of the automatic stay if they contacted the debtor, but continued to do so anyway. An award of actual damages, including attorney fees and costs, may be awarded by the Court.
Bankruptcy was created to provide people with relief. The automatic stay is only one of the many benefits of filing bankruptcy. Not only does filing a bankruptcy stop the constant harassment, wage garnishments, and lawsuits, but it also gives you the opportunity to have a fresh financial start and rebuild your credit once you receive your bankruptcy discharge.
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