When Am I Protected from my Creditors?
Generally, you are protected immediately upon filing. The filing of a Chapter 7 case automatically stays (stops) virtually all collection and other legal proceedings that have been filed against the debtor.
A few days after a Chapter 7 case is filed, the Court will mail a notice to all creditors ordering them to refrain from any further action against the debtor. If the debtor cannot wait this long, it is permissible for the debtor to notify one or more of the creditors of the filing of the case. Any creditor who intentionally violates this Court order may be liable to the debtor for damages.
The most common actions not affected by the filing of a Chapter 7 case are criminal proceedings and actions for the collection of alimony, maintenance or support. Collection actions “stayed” by the filing of bankruptcy are listed in 11 USC § 362.