The automatic stay is a powerful remedy that comes into effect as soon as your bankruptcy case is filed, but the stay doesn’t last forever. You need to realize that this shield against creditor action is not perfect, and will not work in your favor until the end of the world.
The automatic stay remains in effect until a creditor gets an order from the judge in your bankruptcy case to lift the stay. In addition, remember that there are limitations to when the automatic stay may come into effect for only a limited amount of time – or sometimes, not at all. If you had a prior bankruptcy case in the past year and that case was dismissed, then the automatic stay exists for only 30 days (unless you or your lawyer gets a court order extending the automatic stay). And if you had two or more prior bankruptcy cases in the last year that were dismissed then the automatic stay does not take effect at all.
The automatic stay does not protect you from all collections efforts, only the most common ones, like lawsuits, letters and phone calls. It does not stop a criminal proceeding, child support from being determined, or from taxes being assessed or offset.
Finally, the automatic stay ends the minute your bankruptcy case ends- either in a Discharge or in a Dismissal.
As always, rules have exceptions and limitations. Tread carefully when relying on the automatic stay; if you don’t then you may think you’re protected when you are not.
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Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
5310 Markel Rd. Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23230