In personal bankruptcy cases, the typical goal is to obtain a discharge. A discharge is a court-ordered forgiveness of debts. The discharge replaces the automatic stay and continues the protection offered by the automatic stay for debts that are dischargeable. Similar to when the automatic stay is in effect, creditors are not permitted to pursue individuals for personal liability on a debt, unless a client signed a reaffirmation agreement which was filed with the Court during the bankruptcy case (before a discharge is entered in the case). While it does not prevent a creditor who has a lien on property from pursuing their collateral, it is nonetheless a powerful tool. Most debts are dischargeable in a bankruptcy case. The major exceptions are many taxes, virtually all student loans and child support, alimony and other family obligations. There are some other obligations that are not dischargeable that are more uncommon, typically based upon public policy considerations. It is important to talk to an attorney before filing a bankruptcy case to ensure that none of the exceptions are applicable in your particular situation.
For some types of debts, the timing of the bankruptcy can be very important. This is true with respect to tax debts and debts incurred shortly before the filing of a bankruptcy case.