PARTITION OF PROPERTY

If two or more parties own property together and they have a dispute, how can they resolve their differences? Who gets to stay in the house, and who must leave? Will they be forced to sell and, if so, how are the profits to be divided up amongst the owners?

A dilemma such as this was faced by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in the 1989 dark comedy entitled, The War of the Roses. Here, Douglas and Turner purchased and renovated a wonderful old mansion together, but soon became embroiled in a bitter divorce. Since they both wanted the house, they began to wage a campaign to force the other to move out. Eventually, they agreed to paint a line down the middle so that each could cohabitate on their side of the house. Sadly this plan resulted in both the destruction of the house and the two nearly killing each other. Although this movie takes it to the extreme, real life battles over property do happen quite frequently. Most of these disputes are resolved in divorce court with the judge ordering that the house be sold outright or with one party buying out the other.

Yet, when a couple is not married or multiple people own the property, a lawsuit for Partition may be the answer. Anyone who has a present ownership share, estate or inheritance, life estate, future estate or heirship may maintain an action for Partition of Property. A Partition Action is a legal way to split up real estate fairly between two or more owners. In this type of procedure there are three possible scenarios: 1. The court could grant an order whereby the parties will share the use of the property; 2. The court can choose to [r1] order one party to buy out the other, or 3. A sale may be ordered, whereby the property must be sold if it appears that a Partition cannot be made without great prejudice to the owners.

In many cases it is difficult to find a mutually agreeable way to divide up and share the property. In those circumstances the court will order it to be sold. Unfortunately, these court-ordered sales can result in the appointment of a referee who may sell the house at auction or public sale at a bargain price. However, a referee may also choose to get an appraisal and then seek to obtain a sales price close to market value.

When a Partition Action is granted, there is no guarantee what the end result will be, and at least one if not both members of the suit are bound to end up unhappy with the turn of events. Therefore, the parties should do their best to work things out amicably before turning to the legal system for assistance. If all negotiations fail, and you don't want to try what the Roses did, then a partition suit may be the answer. In that case, make sure that you seek professional legal counsel for assistance.