Written by attorney Adrian M. Lapas

What is a "Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay"?

So, you've filed a bankruptcy case and you have received a "Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay". What does that mean?

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to go through the title of the document in reverse order and then put it together.

When you file for bankruptcy protection, a bankruptcy court order goes into effect that prohibits creditors from taking any action against you or your property. That means that any lawsuit against you must stop; the foreclosure against your house must stop; any attempt to repossess your car must stop; any telephone calls demanding money must stop.

This bankruptcy court order goes into effect as soon as your bankruptcy petition hits the courthouse door (we file cases electronically but you get the drift). The bankruptcy court's order is immediate and "automatic." There is nothing further that you as the debtor or that your attorney need do in order for all creditor action to stop. Again, as soon as the bankruptcy petition is filed, all creditor action is stopped or "stayed." Thus, the bankruptcy court order is called the "automatic stay."

When a creditor wants to take action against while you are in bankruptcy, they cannot do so because of the automatic stay. Before a creditor can take action against you, the creditor must ask the court to change or modify the court's order, again, the automatic stay, so that the creditor can take whatever action it has in mind. The creditor, in asking the court, is seeking relief from the automatic stay. In essence, the creditor is asking to court to "please relieve us from having to comply with the automatic stay/court order so that we can take action against the debtor."

A motion is the name that lawyers give for any request made to the court. It is just a way of characterizing the request made to the court.

Thus, a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay is a creditor's way of asking the court to modify or change the bankruptcy court's prohibition on the creditor from taking action against the debtor or debtor's property.

For now, the reasons and methods for dealing with a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay are beyond the scope of this guide.

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