Thursday, May 24, 2012

What An Automatic Stay Can Do For You

Upon filing for bankruptcy, an injunction goes into effect immediately; this injunction is called an automatic stay. An automatic stay halts collection activities such as filing or continuing a lawsuit, making requests for payment, and notifying credit reporting agencies of an unpaid debt. An automatic stay is particularly helpful when a debtor is at risk of being foreclosed on, evicted, having utilities turned off, or found in contempt for failing to pay child support. This stay is a powerful reason in itself to file for bankruptcy.

Below are some of the situations that the automatic stay can assist with:

Foreclosure: If your home or other real property is being foreclosed upon, the automatic stay will temporarily halt the sale in a Chapter 7 filing, or permanently stop the sale in a Chapter 13 filing where a plan is filed to catch up the arrears.

Utilities: An automatic stay can assist when you’re behind on your utility bills if you are receiving threats to disconnect your gas, electric, water or telephone services. The automatic stay will assist in preventing disconnection for at least 20 days.

Eviction: If you are facing eviction from your home the automatic stay may offer some momentary help. In the instance that your landlord already has a judgment of possession against you, the automatic stay will not affect these evictions proceedings. Additionally, the automatic stay cannot help you if the landlord alleges that you’ve destroyed the property or are using controlled substances there. In some cases, the automatic stay may help you to stay a few more days or weeks, however the landlord will most likely ask the court to lift the stay and proceed with the eviction.

Repossession: If your vehicle is in danger of being repossessed, filing bankruptcy can stop the repossession with the automatic stay. In a chapter 13 filing, a vehicle that has been repossessed recently but not yet auctioned off can usually be retrieved.

Garnishment: When bankruptcy is filed, wage garnishments cease; additionally, you may be able to discharge the debt in bankruptcy. An automatic stay can often prevent collection efforts from overpayment of public benefits, however, the automatic stay does not prevent the agency from denying or terminating benefits in the future for this reason.

Below are some of the situations that the automatic stay cannot assist you with:

An automatic stay does not help with certain tax proceedings. The IRS can still issue a tax deficiency notice, audit you, demand a tax return, issue a tax assessment or request payment of an assessment. The automatic stay will stop the IRS from issuing new tax liens or seizing property and income.

The automatic stay will not help you in during a lawsuit against you seeking to determine paternity or to establish, modify or collect child support.

Creditors can ask the court to lift (remove) the automatic stay for various reasons. This generally happens 21 days or more after bankruptcy was filed. When there is any doubt about what an automatic stay can assist with, contact your bankruptcy attorney at Heartland Law for more detailed information specific to your case.

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