Can I be sued if I am already filing chapter 13 bankruptcy?

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Question:

I recently filed for a chapter 13 bankruptcy and one of my creditors is threatening to sue me and obtain a judgment against me.  Can I still be sued if I have already filed for bankruptcy?

Answer:

Once a bankruptcy petition is filed, the debtor receives an automatic stay.  This is a rule that prevents any creditor from enforcing a claim against a debtor during the bankruptcy case.  The stay prohibits:

  • Beginning or continuing lawsuits
  • Collection calls
  • Repossessions
  • Foreclosure sales
  • Garnishment or levies

The automatic stay remains in effect until a judge lifts the stay at the request of a creditor, the debtor gets a discharge, or the item of property is no longer property of the estate.  This is property that is not exempt and belongs to the bankruptcy estate usually sold by the trustee to pay the creditors.  When the debtor receives a discharge in the bankruptcy case, the automatic stay is replaced by a permanent injunction prohibiting creditors from all of those actions.  However, the automatic stay will not stop the following:

  • Criminal proceedings
  • Actions for a family support order or the modification of such order
  • Actions to collect support from property that is not property of the estate
  • Tax audit, demand for tax returns or tax assessments

You should make sure that your bankruptcy papers are filed before any creditor tries to obtain a judgment against you.  It is best to obtain legal advice from a bankruptcy attorney.

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