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Individuals struggling with financial difficulty experience many forms of debt-related stress. Harassing phone calls, embarrassing collection letters, lawsuits, garnishments, foreclosure, repossession . . . financial distress can become a personal nightmare! Fortunately, there are federal laws that can help. A bankruptcy debtor receives several powerful legal protections during the course of a bankruptcy case that provides instant relief.  

When an individual hires a bankruptcy attorney, the federal Fair Debtor Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits third-party collectors from contacting the individual directly and must direct all communications to the attorney. The FDCPA provides immediate relief from collector harassment while preparing to file a bankruptcy case. This law applies to all third-party collectors, such as collection agencies or attorneys, but does not prevent an original creditor from attempting to collect. While the FDCPA does not prevent a lawsuit, repossession, or foreclosure, the involvement of a bankruptcy attorney may delay these processes. 

Virginia bankruptcy debtors receive additional relief once the bankruptcy case is filed. The bankruptcy “automatic stay” becomes effective as soon as the case is filed. This stay is a temporary injunction automatically issued by the federal bankruptcy judge and prohibits all collection activity (with a few very narrow exceptions). The automatic stay is effective throughout the duration of the bankruptcy case but can be modified or terminated by the court after a hearing. This powerful protection stops all creditors and collectors dead in their tracks and stays in court processes such as a lawsuit, garnishment, repossession, or foreclosure. 

At the conclusion of nearly all consumer cases, the Virginia bankruptcy court will issue a permanent injunction prohibiting creditors from collecting on pre-bankruptcy debts. This injunction is known as the “bankruptcy discharge” and relieves the debtor’s legal obligation to pay the creditor. The discharged creditor may not take any collection action against the debtor, which includes contact by phone or mail. 

If you are experiencing creditor harassment, speak with an experienced Virginia Beach bankruptcy attorney and learn how the federal bankruptcy laws can provide immediate relief. Your attorney can help restructure your finances to shape a better financial future. Call the Law Office of Michael J. Heath at (757) 431-866 and get the help you need.

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