Ask about ....
4) Small Claims Court (no lawyer allowed) may get you
a court judgement to support these actions, but usually
max's out at $5000. So, ask if a civil lawsuit would be
cost-effective or not.
5) Is the debt in one or both person's names? If they
declare bankruptcy (very simple and dirt-easy to do) then
the debt may be completely discharged. If you force
them into bankruptcy, would the judge be more apt to
leave some portion of the debt in place? Worth asking.
6) If it's impractical to collect the debt somehow,
can you at least report it to the three credit reporting
agencies? Then the next creditor might then be warned.....
#4 - Not exactly. It's not no lawyer allowed, it's no lawyer required (actually, no lawyer is required, even in regular court - the main differences are that Small Claims is more informal and the monetary limit you mention, which of course is different in every state).
#5 - Excellent idea. Also, find out who owns the house. The "owners" might turn out to be tenants of some family member. Worth a look before investing $$ - you'll need to check at the County Clerk's office.
#6 - Another excellent idea.
Oh, and you need to get the debt secured. Argh, commercial paper was not my forté but the bottom line is that, in a bankruptcy, unsecured debt is near the bottom of the pile. So you'll need to act ASAP to get the debt secured, which I'd recommend you consult a lawyer for the whys and wherefores of that (e. g. when you visit the attorney, I'd make that one of the questions).
Best of luck to you - collections are a bear.