Chino Partition Lawyers

Chino is a city in western San Bernardino County, and was founded on the Rancho Santa Ana del Chino. During the Gold Rush, the rancho was a popular stopover for travelers. Frequently, there are at least four common types of partitions actions for which a Chino Attorney can provide sound counsel:

  • Investor-Investor shared ownership of property;
  • Boyfriend-Girlfriend share ownership of property;
  • Brother-Sister shared ownership of property; and
  • Parent-child shared ownership of property
What is a Partition Action?

A partition action is a lawsuit brought by a property owner seeking the court to force the sale of a jointly owned piece of real property. Typically, partition actions occur when co-owners of real estate have disputes about its ownership and use, and one of them seeks to end their ownership interest. That is, a partition action has no other purpose than to sever the unity of possession between cotenants in a piece of real property. (Rancho Santa Margarita v. Vail (1938) 11 Cal.2d 501, 539.) Currently, partition actions are governed by the provisions set forth in the Code of Civil Procedure section 872.010. These statutes set out a general process by which a property may be partitioned.

Historically, the term "partition" comes from the basic word to break into "parts" as in physically dividing real estate in half. For example, if two siblings inherited ten acres of farmland, the property could historically be divided into five acres a piece for each of them. As most people now live in single-family homes, which cannot simply be "split in half," courts will instead order that the property be sold and the proceeds, or equity, be "split in half." The best Chino Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What are the steps in a Partition Action?

Generally, a partition action has four stages, which include (1) the filing of the lawsuit (2) an appraisal of the Property under the Partition of Real Property Act, (3) the determination of the parties’ interests, and appointment of a referee to sell the property, and (4) the division of the proceeds from the sale.

In California partition actions, the court must enter an interlocutory judgment where the court finds that the Plaintiff in a partition action is entitled to a partition. (CCP § 872.720.) The interlocutory judgment “determines the interests of the parties in the property and, unless it is to be later determined, the manner of partition.” (CCP § 872.720.) A top Chino Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

Generally, anyone considering filing a lawsuit should consider all of their alternatives, including an informal resolution of the problem. This can take the form of a discussion with the other owner or owners about agreeing to sell the property, negotiating with the co-owner to create a formula to divide the proceeds from the sale, or retaining a lawyer to engage in a mediation with the other owners.

Throughout the partition process, and even on the day of trial, any of the owners can make an agreement about the sale of the property. This can happen through a phone call, through negotiations between the parties' lawyers, or through a mediation session with a retired judge or trained mediator. There are many benefits from a mediation session, including confidentiality provisions contained in the law in Evidence Code sections 1115 through 1129.

Specifically, Evidence Code section 1119, subdivision (a), provides "no evidence of anything said or any admission made for the purpose of, in the course of, or pursuant to, a mediation or a mediation consultation is admissible or subject to discovery, and disclosure of the evidence shall not be compelled in any arbitration, administrative adjudication, civil action, or other noncriminal proceeding in which, pursuant to law, testimony can be compelled to be given." A knowledgeable Chino Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for Contribution?

Code of Civil Procedure section 874.140 states that the “court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustments among the parties according to the principles of equity.”

The court in Hunter v. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24 stated that the payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be subject to reimbursement. These claims for reimbursement are commonly known as “offsets” in a partition action.

Further, the court under Milian v. De Leon (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 1185, announced that a co-tenant who expends money for the preservation of the property, or with the [acceptance] of their co-tenant(s), is entitled to reimbursement for those expenditures before the division of the proceeds among the property owners.

That is, the general rule is that compensatory adjustments are appropriate for improvements that enhance the value of the property for all owners’ benefit. (see Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) An experienced Chino Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Clifford v. Tarcha (2002)

Under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 634, “[w]hen a statement of decision does not resolve a controverted issue, or if the statement is ambiguous and the record shows that the omission or ambiguity was brought to the attention of the trial court either prior to entry of judgment or in conjunction with a motion under Section 657 [for new trial] ... it shall not be inferred on appeal ... that the trial court decided in favor of the prevailing party as to those facts or on that issue.” How does the appellate court, upon appeal, interpret this provision when the relevant party does not bring such deficiencies to the trial court’s attention? Furthermore, how do the courts partition a Property when the deed is held only under the name of one of the co-owners but other evidence suggest that the co-owners intended to own it jointly and both contribute to the property? The following paragraphs discuss these matters in a case called, Clifford v. Tarcha (2002) 2002 WL 343401.

In Clifford, Plaintiff Kenneth Clifford brought a partition action against his ex-fiancé Theresa Tarcha. While Clifford was engaged to Tarcha, he was arrested for an offence, for which, Tarcha posted bail but Clifford paid the premium. Clifford, anticipating a civil judgment, transferred $259,000 to Tarcha for protection of his assets. With the amount, they established two trust accounts for Clifford, from which he periodically withdrew money, leaving a balance of $135,000. The parties purchased the Property for $366,171.39.

Clifford and Tarcha agreed to own the Property equally. Clifford paid $135,000 towards it, Tarcha paid the rest, but only Tarcha's name was on the deed to protect it from creditors. Clifford invested in property improvements through both labor and funds. He hired professionals for planning and supervision, purchased and later sold a tractor, and cleared the land. He also dug trenches, laid pipes, and began constructing a barn foundation. Clifford, as both parties testified in court, spent a total of $141,015 for labor, $150,924 for improvements, including $35,017.82 for the tractor, and $10,500 as tractor rental costs, in addition to his initial $135,000 property purchase contribution. Once their relationship ended, Clifford sought partition of the Property by sale.

The Trial Court determined that Clifford's total contribution to the property was $295,924. It found that he contributed $135,000 towards the purchase price and valued his labor at $50,000. It also found that his net expenses for improving the property were $135,924 less $25,000 for the sale of the tractor. The court further held that Tarcha's contribution totaled $491,723, for $230,000 towards the purchase and $261,723 towards improvements on the Property. The court ruled to sell the property and distribute proceeds proportionally—62.43% to Tarcha and 37.57% to Clifford. Additionally, the court ordered Tarcha to return Clifford's engagement ring or pay $30,000. Tarcha appealed.

The California Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision. Tarcha challenged the award of credits to Clifford claiming that some of his work did not improve the Property or increase its value. The Court reviewed these factual questions according to the substantial evidence standard. (Howard v. Owens Corning (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 621, 630–631, 85 Cal.Rptr.2d 386.) Tarcha also challenged the trial court's valuation of Clifford's labor at $50,000 as lacking evidence and claimed that Clifford's reported hours and rate, totaling $141,015, were inflated and unreasonable. The court, however, remarked that it is supposed to review the judgment of the trial court and not Clifford’s initial claim. Similarly, Tarcha pointed to conflicting evidence and questioned whether certain labor expenses should be considered “reasonable” or whether they enhanced the value of the Property. To this, the court said that the trial court is entrusted with such determinations, and as a matter of law, it did not err by declining to provide a detailed accounting especially in an equitable proceeding for partition. (Romanchek v. Romanchek, supra, 248 Cal.App.2d at p. 341, 56 Cal.Rptr. 360; Code Civ. Proc., §§ 872.120, 872.140.) The court further stated that it is not the function of the court of appeals to review conflicting evidence, consider credibility, or to reevaluate whether expenditures incurred should be considered “reasonable.” (Howard v. Owens Corning, supra, 72 Cal.App.4th at pp. 630–631, 85 Cal.Rptr.2d 386.) Additionally, Tarcha requested “a detailed Statement of Decision” showing the basis for labor costs awarded, but she did not object when the trial court did not specify how Clifford's labor increased property value or detail his labor rate and hours. The appellate court cited Code of Civil Procedure Section 634 and remarked that the party needed to point out deficiencies in the trial court’s decision to avoid such implied findings and if does not point them out to the trial court, the party forfeits the right to challenge it on appeal. Therefore, the court remarked, that since Tarcha did not bring the omissions or ambiguities now asserted to the attention of the trial court, she waived the claims.

Tarcha further claimed that the evidence did not justify credits for Clifford's expenses, alleging the trial court wrongly credited Clifford for expenses from before the purchase, unrelated to the property, or after Clifford stopped working on it. The trial court adjusted Clifford's claims down to $110,924, considering the resale of a tractor and a $15,000 reduction excluding the tractor rental. Tarcha identified specific costs, for example, the rental tractor used to grow hey and requested that it be excluded, yet the trial court already omitted the tractor rental and made other deductions. Clifford acknowledged $4,140.20 in unsubstantiated expenses. However, the court noted that the amount was well under the $15,000 discount applied by the trial court, which likely accounted for these discrepancies. Tarcha also contested roughly $3,200.00 in Clifford’s assorted claimed expenses and $5,397.30 for concrete work performed on the property. Clifford stated that of those expenses, approximately $1,229.00 should not be reimbursable to him. The court held that aside from the $4,140.20 and the $1,229.00, the contested amount were either specifically discounted by the trial court or subject of conflicting evidence. The court held that it may not disturb the judgment of the trial court on matters which are subject of conflicting evidence. (Howard v. Owens Corning, supra, 72 Cal.App.4th at pp. 630–631, 85 Cal.Rptr.2d 386.) Further, the court stated that even if the trial court should have discounted the contested amount, the amount was not more than the $15,000 already discounted for expenses and Tarcha had not established that she was entitled to setoff beyond the amount of $15,000. The court of appeals, therefore, upheld the trial court’s judgment.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen above, how a Property will be partitioned among the parties can depend on many different factors, including the parties’ financial as well as non-financial contributions and whether the court deems that the parties intended to mutually own the Property despite how the ownership interests are stated in the deed. If you find yourself contemplating a partition action, or faced with defending one, then please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C. for an initial consultation.

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