You may already know that, once you file for bankruptcy — whether it’s Chapter 7, Chapter 13 or Chapter 11 — an automatic stay is placed on creditor actions while you address your debt problems. That kind of protection is a major benefit provided under bankruptcy law.

What you may not know, however, is that bankruptcy is not the only way to deal with overwhelming debt. Depending on your particular situation, there may be some effective and cost-efficient alternatives to bankruptcy.

For example, refinancing is an option for some people whose car loans or mortgages are no longer affordable because of extremely high interest rates. Refinancing is a way to reach more favorable terms with the lender. Along these same lines, a loan modification may be possible. Typically, a person seeking a home loan modification must apply through the vendor and show that the current situation amounts to a financial hardship.

Debt consolidation is another option. When you consolidate your medical bills or credit card debt into a single loan, it can result in reduced interest and a more manageable repayment schedule.

Rather than filing for bankruptcy, many people also choose to settle their debts out of court by negotiating with the lender. Negotiating a settlement can result in a lower interest rate, reduced principal and a more feasible repayment plan.

In any case, if you are covered up with heavy debt, then remember that you are not alone. There are resources to help you make a fresh start.

For more on addressing debt problems without going to court, please see the Law Office of Christopher P. Walker‘s overview of bankruptcy alternatives.