I am filing for bankruptcy. When does the automatic stay start protecting me from creditors?
The automatic stay goes into effect as soon as you file your bankruptcy case with the court. When it does, almost all collection actions against you must immediately stop. The automatic stay puts collections on hold while your bankruptcy case is pending, to give the trustee a chance to review your paperwork and decide which (if any) creditors are entitled to payment -- and if so, how much.
Many debtors are anxious to receive relief from creditor collection activities, like threatening letters and phone calls, and the automatic stay provides that. It also prevents creditors from garnishing wages, placing liens against personal property, or carrying out repossessions. The immediate effects of the automatic stay even override existing judgments and garnishments, thereby preventing creditors from collecting or continuing to collect any amounts that have been previously awarded (except for child support, which continues as if you had never filed for bankruptcy).
Updated by: Kathleen Michon, J.D.