What the Automatic Stay Can and Cannot Do

  • By:Rex Daines
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One of the immediate benefits of filing bankruptcy is the relief that the Bankruptcy Code’s “automatic stay” gives to a debtor. The automatic stay brings all collection efforts against the debtor to a screeching halt. It prevents creditors from collecting on their debts until discharge, the case is closed, or the stay is lifted. The automatic stay goes into effect immediately— without need for a court order —and it applies to all of the chapters of the Bankruptcy Code. It has a very broad reach. But it’s reach is not limitless.

As you might expect, there are many things the automatic stay can do, but there are also some things it cannot do.

Let’s take a closer look at the powers of the automatic stay.

What the Automatic Stay Can Do.

The automatic stay is found in Section 362 of the Bankruptcy Code. It prevents creditors from taking pretty much any action outside the supervision of the bankruptcy court that would give one creditor an unfair advantage over any other creditor.

Here are just two of the things the automatic stay prohibits:

  • Anyone from bringing or continuing any judicial, administrative, or other action or proceeding against the debtor that either was commenced before the bankruptcy was filed, or which could have been commenced before the bankruptcy was filed.
  • Enforcement of a pre-petition judgment against the estate (i.e., the bankruptcy estate), property of the estate, or the debtor. It prohibits all collection activity including: levies, garnishments, restraining notices and all post-judgment collection remedies.

What the Automatic Stay Cannot Do.

While the automatic stay applies to many actions against a debtor, as we said, it is not limitless. Here are just three things that the automatic stay cannot do:

  • Stop criminal proceedings. The automatic stay does not apply to criminal proceedings or criminal investigations against the debtor.  
  • Prevent tax audits or some actions to collect taxes. The automatic stay does not apply to prevent tax audits, notices or demands. It does not prevent all acts to collect any tax, or to enforce, create or perfect any tax lien. It doesn’t restrict the government from continuing with any tax audits. It won’t prevent the issuance of notices of tax deficiencies or a demand for tax returns or tax assessments.
  • Last forever. Generally, the automatic stay terminates on the happening of one of these events:

1. The case is dismissed;
2. The case is closed;
3. A discharge order is entered or denied by the court;
4. The property is no longer property of the bankruptcy estate; or
5. An order is entered that terminates, vacates or modifies the automatic stay.

Understanding the automatic stay— its reach and its limits —is very important. We have attorneys in Portland, Eugene, Coos Bay, Medford, and a number of other cities in Oregon and in Vancouver and the Tri-Cities in Washington, who can explain the reach of the automatic stay to you.

We Are Here To Help You.

If you are looking for relief from collections calls and creditors coming after you, the automatic stay may give you the break you need. We are experienced bankruptcy attorneys with offices in Washington and throughout Oregon. We offer free consultations, reasonable fees, and are committed to getting our clients the relief they need. To set up an appointment, call us toll free at: 1-800-682.9568 or contact us through our website.

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Debt Relief, Uncategorized

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