Property Partition Lawsuit Corrected

What is a Property Partition Lawsuit?

Written by Elen Orleans, Edit & Graphic by Alexandra Blair June 30, 2023

A simple guide to understanding property partition lawsuits in the Golden State.

What is a Property Partition Lawsuit?

A property partition lawsuit in California is a legal action that co-owners of a property can resort to when they can't agree on the sale, use, or development of the property. The court can then intervene to physically divide the property (if it is possible and beneficial), or it can order the property to be sold, with the proceeds divided among the co-owners.

Types of Partition

In California, there are three main types of partition actions: partition by division, partition by sale, and partition by appraisal.

  • Partition by Division (Partition in Kind): In this case, the property is divided into distinct portions that each owner individually controls. This is usually applicable to large parcels of land.

  • Partition by Sale: If it is not practical or beneficial to divide the property, the court may order the property to be sold, and the proceeds divided among the co-owners.

  • Partition by Appraisal: This option is less common but allows one co-owner to buy out the others based on an appraised value.

It is important to note that partition by sale is the most common type of partition in California, particularly when dealing with single-family homes.

The Process of a Partition Lawsuit

The process of a partition lawsuit can be quite lengthy and starts with filing a complaint in the superior court of the county where the property is located. This lawsuit must describe the property, the interests of the co-owners, and the type of partition requested.

Once the complaint is filed and served, the defendants (the other co-owners) have a chance to respond. If they fail to respond, a default judgment could be made. If they do respond, the case will proceed, potentially leading to a trial.

If the court agrees that a partition is justified, a referee is typically appointed. The referee is an impartial third party (often a real estate expert or attorney) who is tasked with carrying out the partition according to the court's order. This may involve appraising the property, negotiating with creditors, selling the property, or physically dividing it.

The court will then confirm the referee's report, and the partition will be carried out as ordered by the court.

The Cost of a Partition Lawsuit

Partition actions can be expensive, encompassing attorney fees, court costs, referee fees, and other costs like appraisal fees. However, California law provides that these costs are typically paid out of the sale proceeds before the remaining funds are divided among the co-owners.

Professional Guidance is Key

Due to the complexity of partition lawsuits, it is highly recommended to seek the advice of a real estate attorney. They can guide you through the process, help protect your interests, and ensure you comply with all necessary legal procedures.

While property partition lawsuits in California can be complex and emotionally draining, they provide a legal avenue for co-owners to resolve their disputes. By understanding the process and seeking professional guidance, co-owners can navigate this difficult path and hopefully arrive at a solution that respects everyone's interests.