You should hire an attorney to represent you. If you can't afford one, try contacting mass legal services or the MBA lawyer referral service. You should also go to the hearing - if you don't a judgment will likely be entered against you for the dollar amount claimed by the creditor. A judgment is good for 20 years. Even if you can't pay now, you may be able to pay later.
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It depends on the type of hearing
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You should speak to a Bankruptcy/Debtor attorney who can speak to you about your individual situation immediately. He or she will be able to look at all of your financial makeup and decide whether to negotiate payment plans and/or file bankruptcy.
Many people file bankruptcy about a year later than they should and unnecessarily must be subjected to harassing phone calls. If you are just going to file bankruptcy before the hearing, you will have no reason to appear at the hearing as the debt will be "discharged" (i.e. you will no longer be responsible for it). If you file after the hearing, but before the creditor files a lien against your property, the debt will be similarly discharged.
You will need to meet with a Bankruptcy attorney more about this because if you have a lot of property that can be sold to pay your debts that cannot be exempted (i.e. protected) in your bankruptcy. The court that you file in should be the state where you have lived the most over the past 180 days, while the exemptions that you can use are based on the state where you lived prior to the 2 years before filing for bankruptcy. A bankruptcy attorney can also advise you if federal exemptions are also available in the state. Many states like Massachusetts allow you to use either the state exemptions or federal exemptions (which differ on what property is protected and to what extent). You just cannot mix and match and must choose all state exemptions or all federal exemptions. I would speak to an bankruptcy attorney in the state whose exemptions you will be using.
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