No—your creditors can’t continue to call you, send you letters, deduct money from your paycheck, or anything else, for that matter. One of the most powerful tools in bankruptcy is its ability to stop collection efforts cold. Here’s how it works.
When you file for bankruptcy, the court issues an order called an “automatic stay.” The automatic stay tells your creditors that all efforts to collect your debt must come to a halt. It remains in place for the entire duration of your bankruptcy unless the creditor files a motion to lift it (or in certain Chapter 13 cases—see the discussion below). A lender is likely to file a motion to lift the stay if you’re behind on your house payment or when the creditor wants permission to continue suing you in an ongoing lawsuit.
Many people wonder how creditors find out that the automatic stay is in place. The answer is simple: The court notifies them. You can learn more by reading Who Lets My Creditors Know That I’ve Filed for Bankruptcy?
Sometimes a creditor mistakenly calls a filer, however—but it’s rarely purposeful. In most cases you can stop the unwanted contact by giving the caller the following information:
- the bankruptcy chapter you filed (Chapter 7 or Chapter 13)
- your bankruptcy case number (it will appear at the top of your petition or any other correspondence that you receive from the court)
- the filing date, and
- your attorney’s name and telephone number, if you have one.
Providing this information works because your creditors know that they could face penalties if the automatic stay violations continued.
Here’s an important point to remember: If you’re filing a second Chapter 13 bankruptcy after a previous dismissal, it’s likely that the automatic stay will be good only for the first 30 days of your case. To extend it requires filing a motion with the court. If you find yourself in this situation, or if a creditor continues to violate the automatic stay, you should contact a bankruptcy attorney.
Go to the main bankruptcy FAQ page.