The most valuable feature of a bankruptcy is sometimes the automatic stay, which the debtor gains instantaneously on filing a petition. The stay is an automatic court order that prohibits all sorts of collection attempts by creditors, allowing the bankruptcy to proceed in an orderly fashion. It forces an abrupt halt of most creditor actions against the debtor, including repossessions, garnishments or attachments, utility shutoffs, foreclosures and evictions. Many of these can thereafter be permanently prevented. The stay is also an effective way (though hardly the only way) to end creditor collection efforts. Creditors who violate the stay risk contempt of court, money damages and attorneys' fees. Beyond all this, the stay gives the debtor a breathing spell, time to sort things out.
Other protections available through bankruptcy may offer the only possible way for an individual to keep or regain a driver's license that is subject to revocation because of an unpaid debt arising from a motor vehicle accident. This, in turn, may mean employment and income for the individual's family. In some cases, bankruptcy may mean freedom for a debtor who might otherwise be incarcerated for failure to pay support obligations or as a result of a contempt proceeding involving some other debt. The Bankruptcy Code also protects the debtor from many types of discriminatory actions by government bodies and private employers on the basis of unpaid debts discharged in bankruptcy.