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The automatic stay: Your most powerful weapon

If you are overwhelmed by debt, you may be wondering if there's any way to stop your creditors from calling. Can you get real financial relief? Do you have any valid options?

The answer is, yes. You do have legal options. You do have hope. In the battle against harassing phone calls, wage garnishment and other debt-related problems, the automatic stay is likely to be your most powerful defensive weapon.

According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the automatic stay is defined as, "An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and all collection activity against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed."

To put it plainly, the automatic stay is a court order that puts an immediate stop to creditor actions against you. As soon as you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the court will issue this stay. Among other things, it will:

  • Stop creditor harassment. The automatic stay forbids creditors from contacting you about your debt any more. They aren't allowed to call you, email you, send you letters in the mail, knock on your door or otherwise harass you. You will be able to breathe freely again.
  • Stop wage garnishment. If creditors are garnishing your wages to help repay what you owe them, the automatic stay will end the garnishment. You'll have full access to your paychecks again.
  • Halt home foreclosure. Even if a foreclosure action has already been initiated against you, the automatic stay will halt it. This can give you a chance to plan your next move without having the stress of an eviction notice hanging over your head.

One thing to be aware of is that the automatic stay only applies to the person who files the bankruptcy petition. So, if you are married and you file jointly, the stay will apply to both of you. If you file as an individual, however, it will only apply to you. Creditors will still be able to harass your spouse and take other action against him or her.

To learn more about how to escape the stress of overwhelming debt and make your financial life better, consider consulting a Florida lawyer who is experienced in bankruptcy law.

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