The Automatic Stay – What it is and How it Can Help You Protect Your Assets
Section 362 of the Bankruptcy Code provides one of the most important protections extended to debtors in bankruptcy cases. With certain exceptions, the automatic stay applies the moment a bankruptcy case is filed and prevents the commencement or continuation of adverse litigation or collection activity. For individuals attempting to stave off a scheduled sheriff’s sale of their home or avoid the repossession of a vehicle, the automatic stay is federal law strictly prohibiting foreclosures and repossessions in most instances.
Tell your bankruptcy attorney of any existing or potential lawsuits against you and all possible adverse creditor actions. Generally, it is advisable for your lawyer to immediately give notice of the bankruptcy filing to such creditors to advise them that your assets are shielded by the automatic stay.
Creditors who knowingly violate the automatic stay are subject to mandatory sanctions for your actual damages arising from the violation. Additionally, courts may award punitive damages and attorneys’ fees for such willful violations. In the event of a stay violation, your bankruptcy attorney can best advise you on how to respond.
Creditors wishing to protect their interests may file certain motions before the bankruptcy court. Commonly, creditors file motions for relief from the automatic stay so that they can continue their collection efforts. Your lawyer can discuss your goals with you and help you decide whether to defend a motion for relief from stay. Additionally, certain secured creditors may move for adequate protection payments and demand that debtors provide evidence of insurance. When those kinds of motions arise, your bankruptcy professionals will be available to help you respond.
The automatic stay provides debtors in bankruptcy cases breathing room and puts a halt to chaotic creditor collection efforts. That stay may enable debtors to confirm a plan of reorganization, cure outstanding payments or provide for an orderly turnover of an asset. To assess your goals and map a path toward a fresh start and financial freedom, contact us today for a free initial consultation.