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Common Legal Questions & Answers

Click on the question to expand the block and read answers to common legal questions provided by our attorneys.

This Q & A is not legal advice but should be considered as general guidance.

Should I file for bankruptcy?

Financial distress can strike anyone at any time. Sometimes the causes are predictable; more often they are not. For individuals, loss of employment, divorce, unexpected medical costs, and a variety of other conditions can lead to a seemingly hopeless situation in which it is virtually impossible to see a future which is debt-free. For businesses, market changes, unexpected operating costs, undercapitalization and other economic conditions may result in situations where a business seems to drown in red ink. Often, a bankruptcy filing seems the only rational alternative. Federal law provides different forms of bankruptcy to assist the financially strapped to liquidate their debt and move on with their lives, or reorganize their debt. People frequently are able to retain homes, cars and other prized possessions despite a bankruptcy filing. Businesses may be able to reorganize in such a way that they can continue in business after a bankruptcy filing. Questions regarding the decision to file a bankruptcy, and what form of bankruptcy to file, along with the many associated questions such as what assets may be retained, what debts may be discharged, how debts may be restructured, and the like can be very complex, and the advice of an experienced attorney can be critical. Similarly, creditors often have questions regarding their rights and treatment when a bankruptcy is filed by someone who owes money to them. If you have questions regarding bankruptcy, you should contact Richard J. O’Brien.

What happens when someone who owes my business money files bankruptcy?

When a customer files bankruptcy, there may be certain actions that need to be taken quickly, including stopping the shipment of goods in transit or recovering delivered goods sold on credit. There are also deadlines for filing with the Bankruptcy Court proof that the debtor owes your business money. When you learn that a customer who owes your business money has filed for bankruptcy protection, you should immediately stop any collection efforts. This does not mean that you automatically lose your right to payment, but you will need to work with an attorney to ensure that any rights to payment out of the bankruptcy process are protected. If you have questions regarding bankruptcy, you should contact Richard J. O’Brien.

What is a guardian ad litem and do I need one in my divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case?

A guardian ad litem (GAL) is an individual, usually an attorney, appointed by the court to represent the best interests of a child or children in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.  It is important to note that the best interests of the child may or may not be the same as what the child wants.  In fact, the child’s preference is just one of many factors that the GAL considers in determining the child’s best interests.  The GAL conducts his or her own investigation of the family situation.  Based on that investigation and the GAL’s independent judgment, he or she reports his or her findings and makes recommendations to the court as to the child’s residence, parent-child contact, and any other issues relating to the child.

If you have minor children and you are going through a divorce or are seeking a court determination of parental rights and responsibilities, you may want to consider requesting that a GAL be appointed in your case.  A GAL can be especially valuable in cases with high conflict.  If you are considering a GAL for your family law case, please contact Molly Watson Shukie.

Do I have property lien rights as a creditor?

What is a mechanics lien and when can a mechanics lien be filed against real estate?

A mechanic’s lien is a collection remedy for unpaid contractors, subcontractors, architects, engineers, surveyors, landscapers, real estate professionals, material and equipment suppliers, and others who are owed money for labor or materials provided on a construction project or other real property.  A mechanics lien certificate must be recorded in the county where the property is located within 90 days from the last day that labor or materials were furnished.  Then, in order to preserve and enforce the recorded mechanic’s lien, a complaint must be filed to initiate a civil lawsuit to enforce the lien within 120 days of the last provision of labor or materials.  For assistance with mechanics liens, contact Sonia J. Buck.

What other creditor lien rights are available in Maine?

In addition to the mechanics lien law, Maine also has some other unique lien rights.  For those who furnish canned corn, grain, or fruit, potatoes, hay, or lumber, certain lien rights to those goods and/or their finished products may be available to secure payment for the goods furnished.  For those who repair or service vehicles, vessels, watches, jewelry, clothing, appliances and other items, automatic liens on those goods may be established for the reasonable compensation for any labor or materials expended on the items.  For assistance with collections, contact Sonia J. Buck.

What other creditors rights may be available?

To the extent you are holding money or property of a customer who owes your business money, you may have “set off” rights, allowing you to take that money or property and apply it to your customer’s delinquent account.  A common example of a set off is when a debtor has a mortgage or other personal loan with a bank where the debtor also has a checking account.  If the customer defaults on the personal loan with the bank, the bank may, without notice, take money from the checking account and apply it toward the personal loan.  For assistance with collections, contact Sonia J. Buck.

Can I recover the legal fees that my business incurs for having to sue to collect on delinquent accounts?

You have a claim for legal fees and other collection costs only if the contract you had with your customer expressly provides for the customer to pay for attorneys’ fees and costs in the event a collection case is necessary.  Make sure your contracts contain such a provision.  For assistance with collections, contact Sonia J. Buck.

What services does LCW offer to healthcare practitioners?

LCW provides multifaceted legal services for physicians and other healthcare providers. We can help you keep track of the various legal requirements for running a medical practice and let you know how changes in the law will impact your activities.  We provide legal counsel to healthcare professionals regarding the formation and dissolution of groups and individual practices, incorporation, associate agreements, employment law, risk management, provider agreements, property acquisition and business plans.  We will not take medical malpractice claims against physicians.  For assistance with healthcare issues, please contact Jon Oxman.

Linnell, Choate & Webber, LLP

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Linnell, Choate & Webber, LLP

Our team of dedicated Maine lawyers have chosen the law as the career which we believe best enables us to serve our clients and community. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

83 Pleasant Street

Auburn , ME

Phone: (207) 784-4563

Fax: (207) 784-1981

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