Simply put, it is the shield of protection that the bankruptcy court surrounds you with after you file for bankruptcy. It stops creditors from coming after you, or calling you, or from trying to collect on your debts. It also prevents any further legal action against you that the creditor might be in the middle of taking. And it provides you with the breathing room you need to get things in order, and begin to move forward with life.
The automatic stay is imposed as soon as a St. Louis Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a St. Louis Chapter 13 bankruptcy is filed. Its provisions also include remedies for an individual if a creditor violates the stay. So for instance, if you file a Missouri bankruptcy, and your creditors are notified of the petition, but they continue to contact you (and collect on the debt), they have violated your federal rights. The remedies for this kind of violation can be severe, including punitive damages (which is basically an award of money to you to compensate the fact that the creditor willing overlooked its duty to comply with the stay).
The automatic stay is specifically important in the context of a Missouri Chapter 13. If you are making monthly payments in a Chapter 13 plan, but you fall behind on certain secured debts (such as your house mortgage), the automatic stay still prevents the creditor from taking any immediate action to foreclose. In essence, it buys the necessary time to get things in order, and make arrangements to come current on the payments.
The St. Louis bankruptcy attorneys at The Bankruptcy Company have been making sure that no violations of the automatic stay go unnoticed. Our attorneys are willing to fight against those who wish to subvert your federal rights. In the end, our goal is to help guide you towards a better financial future, and get you the fresh start / clean slate you deserve.