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What is an "automatic stay" in bankruptcy?

Bankruptcy is a legal process that can help those who are struggling financially find a fresh financial start. Those who have considered this process have likely stumbled on a number of legal terms, including "automatic stay." This term refers to a court order that is granted after an applicant is approved for bankruptcy.

What happens when an automatic stay is issued? This court order requires creditors to stop contacting you. In addition to ceasing contact, these creditors cannot file a lawsuit in an attempt to gain payment or enter a lien against your property.

The automatic stay can also stop a landlord from evicting a tenant that is going through bankruptcy if the eviction is in connection to a demand for rental payment. The court order can also stop garnishment. Garnishment is a process that allows a creditor to remove money directly from your paycheck. When you get the paycheck from your employer, the creditor would already have taken a portion of payment from the check. When an automatic stay goes into effect, the garnishment should stop.

This order also extends to include utilities. A person that is going through bankruptcy is often protected from utility disconnection.

Does the applicant need to do anything to make the automatic stay go into effect? Essentially, no. The applicant just needs to put together a successful application for relief through bankruptcy. If granted, the automatic stay goes into effect automatically (hence the name).

This is just one of the many legal terms to understand before determining if bankruptcy is the right option for you. An experienced attorney can discuss this and other terms and help you decide the best way to get back on your feet.

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