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Los Angeles Bankruptcy Lawyers / Blog / Bankruptcy / The Automatic Stay for Stopping Lawsuits in Their Tracks

The Automatic Stay for Stopping Lawsuits in Their Tracks


The automatic stay in bankruptcy serves as a powerful shield for individuals overwhelmed by financial distress. This legal provision halts most creditors in their tracks, providing debtors with much-needed respite and a chance to reorganize their finances. At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, we recognize the significance of the automatic stay in the bankruptcy process and aim to demystify its workings, implications, and the exceptions to its rule. Contact our Los Angeles bankruptcy attorneys to learn about the automatic stay and its capacity to pause various legal actions against you as a debtor.

The moment a bankruptcy petition is filed, the automatic stay comes into effect. This immediate injunction halts most collection efforts, lawsuits, and legal proceedings against the debtor. The purpose of the automatic stay is twofold: it protects the debtor from further harassment and ensures an orderly bankruptcy process by preserving the debtor’s assets for equitable distribution among creditors.

The Scope of the Automatic Stay

The automatic stay puts a stop to most collection calls, letters, and similar efforts by creditors. This cessation of contact provides debtors with a period of calm to focus on their bankruptcy case without the added stress of ongoing collection activities.

Legal actions against the debtor, including civil lawsuits over debts, are paused. This freeze gives the bankruptcy court time to assess the debtor’s financial situation and determine the next steps without the interference of external legal judgments.

Creditors seeking to repossess property, such as vehicles, are temporarily blocked from doing so. Similarly, foreclosure actions on the debtor’s home are halted, offering a window of opportunity to address mortgage debts through bankruptcy proceedings.

The automatic stay stops wage garnishments used for debt collection. This protection ensures that debtors have access to their full income to support themselves and their families during the bankruptcy process.

Exceptions to the Automatic Stay

While the automatic stay is comprehensive, it does not apply universally. Certain types of legal actions and proceedings are exempt from its reach:

Certain Tax Proceedings: The automatic stay does not prevent the IRS from auditing, issuing a tax deficiency notice, demanding a tax return, or assessing and demanding payment of taxes. However, it does stop the IRS from issuing a tax lien or seizing property.

Support Obligations: Actions to establish or modify an order for domestic support obligations, such as child support or alimony, are not halted by the automatic stay. Collection of these obligations can continue unabated.

Criminal Proceedings: The automatic stay does not affect criminal cases against the debtor, which may include fines or penalties unrelated to debt. The legal process in criminal matters proceeds independently of the debtor’s bankruptcy case.

Pension Loans: The automatic stay does not prevent the collection of loan repayments from certain types of pensions, allowing these deductions to continue even after a bankruptcy filing.

Multiple Bankruptcy Filings: For debtors who have had multiple bankruptcy cases dismissed within the preceding year, the automatic stay may be limited or nonexistent in a subsequent filing. This provision aims to prevent abuse of the bankruptcy system.

Navigating the Automatic Stay

Understanding the nuances of the automatic stay and its exceptions is crucial for debtors considering bankruptcy. Here are key strategies for navigating this legal provision:

Timely Filing: Filing for bankruptcy before creditors take significant legal actions can maximize the protections offered by the automatic stay.

Communicating with Creditors: Once the automatic stay is in place, informing creditors of your bankruptcy filing can help ensure compliance with the stay’s provisions.

Seeking Relief from the Stay: Creditors may petition the bankruptcy court for relief from the automatic stay to proceed with certain actions, such as foreclosure. Debtors should be prepared to address these motions in court.

Legal Representation: Working with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is essential to effectively navigate the automatic stay and its exceptions. Legal counsel can provide guidance on leveraging the stay for your benefit and dealing with creditors’ challenges.

Contact Wadhwani & Shanfeld

The automatic stay is fundamental to the bankruptcy process, offering debtors a critical breathing space to reorganize their finances without the immediate threat of lawsuits, garnishments, or collection efforts. However, its exceptions and limitations highlight the complexity of bankruptcy law and the importance of informed legal guidance.

At Wadhwani & Shanfeld, we are dedicated to helping our clients understand and navigate the intricacies of bankruptcy, including the powerful protection of the automatic stay. If you’re facing financial challenges and considering bankruptcy, we’re here to support you every step of the way, ensuring you make the most of the legal protections available to you.



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