If you do not show up to court, the creditors will get judgments for the full amounts they are asking for, and these amounts will be due right away. If you do show up, you can usually negotiate a lesser amount in addition to a payment schedule.
The judgment can be used to garnish wages and bank accounts, and to place liens on property. They cannot force the sale of your house - though - unless it has more than $150,000 equity.
You can avoid showing up for court by contacting the law firm, not the creditor they are representing.
It costs $1500 - $2000 to file a Bankruptcy. You can file at any time, before or after the creditors get a judgment, but it will be easier if you do it before the creditors place liens on your property.
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