Can a third party be joined in a family law proceeding to sell a property?

Justice scale placed on top of a Family Law book Yes, a third party who has an interest in the property in question may “join” in a family law proceeding. In some specific cases, a third party must “join” the family law proceeding.

California codified a third party’s ability to participate in a family law proceeding to assert their interest in real estate by creating the joinder rules. These rules authorize who is allowed to join a family law proceeding other than the two spouses.

Who can join a family law proceeding?

California Family law code section 5.24 states that the court is authorized to join the third party to a family law proceeding who claims an interest in the proceeding. 

There are only three reasons why a third party would be authorized to join a family law proceeding:

  • First, if there is a third party who has claims to custody or physical control over any of the minors subject in this action or any claims to the property subject to the family law proceeding, the petitioner or respondent may apply for a court order joining them to the case. 
  • Second, if there is someone with a claim or physical control over the children in question, they may apply to the court to make themselves a party to the proceeding. 
  • Lastly, if someone was served with an order temporarily restraining the use of the property in their position, then they may also apply to the court for an order to join themselves as a party to the proceeding.

How do you join a family law proceeding?

If one of the exceptions to the family law joinder code applies to you, such as having a claim to the physical property in dispute, then you have to apply to the court to be included in the family law proceeding so that your interest in the property is established.

The formal process for this must be made by servicing and filing the form titled “Notice of Motion and Declaration for Joinder.” In addition, the hearing date must be less than 30 days away from the date of the filing notice, and the notice must state the joinder’s interest in the proceeding and the specific relief sought by the joinder applicant. Lastly, the notice must be accompanied by an appropriate pleading which states your claim as if it were asserted in a separate court action or proceeding.

Who can vs. who must join a family law proceeding?

If someone can be joined under a court order, this third party will receive a 30-day notice to respond to the summons pleading if one of the spouses elects that they have an interest in the priority at stake. This is called a “permissive” joinder, where the court finds that it would be appropriate to determine the particular property issue in the family law proceeding. This party who can join is generally either indispensable for the court to make an order about this property claim issue, or the party can be joined if it is necessary to enforce a property judgment rendered on the family law issue.

If the court orders that a person be joined as a party to the family law proceeding, then they must join the proceeding as a joinder. An example of when this occurs is when the court discovers either this joinder has physical or claims custody of a minor child in this family law proceeding. However, in all likelihood, it is rare for someone that must join the proceeding. A 1994 court case, “Schnabel v. Superior Court,” states that the Joinder of a third party to a family law proceeding is compelled only in the rarest of circumstances, such as co-owners of real estate property or a company.

What are common situations where a third party joins a family law proceeding?

Sometimes, during a divorce proceeding between two spouses,  a third party can also have rights or a claim to the property that is in dispute in the family hearing. It doesn’t have to be a divorce, either. It could be a dissolution of parental rights, a domestic partnership dissolution, or something in the nature of two parties splitting up or separating in a family law proceeding.

On occasion, a party to a marriage holds real estate properly jointly with a third party in an attempt to “shield” the property. In this instance, this third party would have to be joined in the family law action as their interests would then be classified as an interest to the property in question, thus creating the need to join as a third party, regardless of their intentions of “shielding” property. The court allows this third party to join, even if one of the spouses tried to use this third person as a “shield” to the property, because it will most likely lead to fewer property and family law disputes down the road and prevent multiple additional claims in the future.

However, regardless of each party’s intentions, if there is a third party that has a legal claim or rights to a property in question in a family law proceeding, they often need to be added to the proceeding as a third party. This is done for “jurisdictional,” or ensuring that the court has jurisdiction to hear this property dispute case.

How can the attorneys at Underwood Law Firm, P.C. assist me as a third-party joinder action?

If your rights to property are tied up in a family court action, whether it is your family’s or not, it is best to seek out a knowledgeable and credible attorney. It is important that you do not accidentally sign away your rights to a property in question and keep all of your legal options open. One way of ensuring your rights to a certain piece of real estate property is kept intact is to contact the experienced attorneys at Underwood Law Firm, P.C.. so that they can help you retain your rights to your property.

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