The filing of a Chapter 7 case by a person automatically suspends virtually all collection and other legal proceedings pending against that person.  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 person.  This court-ordered suspension of creditor activity against the person filing is called the automatic stay.  If necessary, notice of the automatic stay may be served on a creditor earlier by the person or the person’s attorney.  Any creditor who intentionally violates the automatic stay may be held in contempt of court and may be liable in damages to the person filing.  Criminal proceedings and actions to collect domestic support obligations from exempt property or property acquired by the person after the Chapter 7 case was filed are not affected by the automatic stay.  The automatic stay also does not protect cosigners and guarantors of the person filing (it does protect them In a Chapter 13) and a creditor may continue to collect debts from those persons after the case is filed.  Persons who have had a prior bankruptcy case dismissed within the past year may be denied the protection of the automatic stay.