A partition action is a type of lawsuit that most commonly pertains to jointly owned real property. A partition action typically forces the sale of jointly owned property and divides the sale proceeds. Less commonly, a partition lawsuit divides the property itself into pieces, such that each co-owner receives 100% ownership of a fractional piece of the property. When two or more owners cannot agree on the disposition of the property in question, any of the owners has the right to file a partition action in court.
The most common type of relief in a partition action is an order that the real property be sold and the proceeds divided among the owners. The proceeds can be divided in the same proportion as the ownership interests, so that if two parties each own half of the real estate, the proceeds are divided 50% – 50%, although courts can account for the contributions of each party and divide the proceeds proportionally with contributions.
If the property in question is capable of being physically divided, the court may order the physical division of the property itself, with each party to receive a proportionate share of the property. However, this is rare, as most real property has been improved with buildings, or a house, which usually cannot practically be physically divided between multiple owners. This solution is usually only possible when the real property in question is a vacant and unimproved lot or parcel. Even in this situation, it is usually more practical for the property to be sold and the proceeds divided between the owners.
Common Situations That Necessitate a Partition Action
In many cases, a partition lawsuit results from inherited property, disagreement among siblings, divorced spouses, or disenchanted business partners. Often, a property has a single owner, who then passes away. In their will or through operation of law, the property ownership then passes to multiple owners (perhaps the adult children of the deceased), who may not have the same goals and aspirations for the property. If the parties cannot agree on how the property should be used, a partition action often results. Other situations may involve a couple who buy property, own it jointly, but do not marry. If the couple breaks up, they may not agree on how the property should be used, again resulting in a partition action. Although less common, a partition action can also be asserted to divide personal property.
Are there methods to resolve a partition situation without a court-ordered sale?
Even after a lawsuit is brought, the parties, through their attorneys, can agree to sell the property without court intervention, and divide the proceeds fairly. Of course, it is necessary to have a binding settlement agreement drafted by counsel to ensure that the parties follow through on such a resolution. Another resolution is when one of the co-owners agrees to pay the other owners to buy out their share of the property. In such situations, a new deed should be prepared by counsel, showing the new ownership.
Can I bring a partition action myself?
A partition action is a highly technical legal action with many specific court requirements to be met. We recommend bringing such actions through experienced legal counsel to ensure that your rights are protected.
What documents are required when meeting with our attorneys?
In order to properly evaluate a case, we request that a copy of all documents relating to ownership of the property, such as titles, deeds, wills, and/or any other agreements be provided. We would also request copies of all documents showing expenses and any income related to the property so that we can evaluate the contributions that the owners made to the property.
Are partition actions available for commercial as well as residential property?
Any property that has multiple owners, whether commercial or residential, can be the subject of a partition action. The attorneys at Burnham Law have experience in handling all types of property disputes. Contact us today to discuss the details of your case.