People call me to help them manage their debts. Generally, they don’t call me after sitting down and doing a cold calculation of their current liabilities, assets and income which leads them to the conclusion that a bankruptcy is their best resort, but instead they call me after reaching a breaking point with their debts. That breaking point typically follows an avalanche of phone calls, or a lawsuit being served, or a wage garnishment being executed. These are the points where people have, emotionally speaking, “had enough” and are ready to try something new to stop the stress and difficulty.
Not everyone who calls needs a bankruptcy, or is even eligible to file one. Sometimes, they aren’t ready to file a bankruptcy, but just want the calls to stop, or the garnishment to stop, or a brief pause in the stresses caused by constant demands for money. How can a person make the calls stop?
In a strictly legal sense, there are very few ways to prevent the phone from ringing if you legitimately owe a debt. Creditors, especially the original creditors, have broad latitude to call and call and call until they are paid, and there is not much short of a bankruptcy that will stop them. A bankruptcy filing, by law, creates a legal protection called the Automatic Stay, which prevents a creditor from taking any action to collect a debt while the debtor is under bankruptcy protection. These actions include calls, letters, legal actions like lawsuits or garnishments, and even reporting on a credit report. It’s a very broad and powerful protection, and courts have generally harshly dealt with creditors who violate its terms.
However, there are some more practical avenues to try to stop the calls short of filing a bankruptcy case (or to tide you until you can get one on file):
You can negotiate an agreeable payment arrangement or settlement to satisfy the creditor, which should stop the regular collection calls.
If the debt is being pursued by a collector, you have the right to dispute the debt in writing, which will trigger a delay in collection efforts while the debt is investigated.
If you have retained an attorney to represent you, you can refer calls to that attorney. This does not carry a legal prohibition on calls, but most creditors will heed the official retention of a lawyer.
You could turn off all phone service, move to a cave in the wilderness, and wait until the statute of limitations on the debts has run. (I’m not advocating for this, but I too have considered it on the odd Monday morning.)
In the end, there isn’t much that can be done to stop a creditor or collector acting within the law from pestering you regularly about getting paid. If they venture outside the law, there are some significant legal tools available, but those too really require the help of an attorney.
If you have reached a point where you cannot manage all the obligations you have, then speaking to an attorney about your options (including a bankruptcy) is a safe bet, and may give you some tools to get breathing space to address your problems.