Citrus Heights Partition Lawyers

Situated in Sacramento County in California, Citrus Heights is a small city of about 87,000 people and became an independent city offering local municipal services in January 1997. According to Redfin, in June 2023, Citrus Heights home prices were down 8.2% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $478K. On average, homes in Citrus Heights sell after 7 days on the market compared to 9 days last year. There were 72 homes sold in June this year, down from 118 last year. As a growing city, Citrus Heights is subject to property owned by several persons, who may find they need a partition action when a disagreement arises among them. Frequently, there are at least four common types of partitions actions for which a Citrus Heights Partition 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 in California?

Partition is a court-ordered process where a property owner forces a sale of jointly owned real estate. Essentially, a partition action exists to allows people who own real estate together to take their share of the equity and go their separate ways. But, as simple as this seems, partition actions can often become complex lawsuits. Disputes commonly arise as to what type of partition may be sought and the process for determining ownership interests.  

For example, “Julie” bought a house with her boyfriend, “Shawn,” thinking that they would get married one day. Later, after they had bought the house, Julie realized that her boyfriend was not the right person for her. Because Julie wanted to move on in her life, she also wanted to sell the house she bought with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, however, was mad at Julie for breaking up with him, and so refused to agree to sell the house. Because they were not married, Julie could not go to a divorce lawyer, and because they both did not agree to sell, a realtor could not help Julie. Julie felt trapped. Julie then, however, found a partition lawyer and was able to get the house sold so she could move on with her life. A partition lawyer got the job done. The best Citrus Heights Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Generally, the first step in the partition lawsuit process is not a lawsuit, but an earnest attempt to resolve the matter informally, such as through a partition agreement. Only when it is clear that litigation is the only option, is it clear that a partition lawsuit is appropriate.  

When it is clear that a partition lawsuit is necessary, then the process begins with the filing of a complaint in the county where the property is located. There are several technical requirements for the partition complaint, and many important steps that must be taken during the lawsuit to ensure that the process is managed effectively.

In a partition lawsuit, there are generally four different steps. First, the court determines each party's ownership interests. Second, the court will decide on the manner of sale. Third, the court will order the property be sold. Fourth, the proceeds from the sale will be divided between the parties based on their relative contributions to the property.

While some may believe that inherited property cannot be partitioned, this is incorrect. Instead, when the property is owned as the result of an inheritance, there may be an additional step for an appraisal, and a right of first refusal, as provided by the Uniform Partition of Heirs Act. Under this act, where a co-tenant requests partition by sale, the law gives the non-partition owner the option to buy all of the interests of the co-tenants who requested the sale. A top Citrus Heights 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 Citrus Heights Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “w”?

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 Citrus Heights Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Gamad v. Soriben (2008): Delay Tactics in Litigation

Litigation is a long process that often takes years to resolve. Over the years, events and circumstances surrounding the lawsuit can change. This may result in parties changing their minds about certain aspects of litigation, including whether or not to settle.

Some particularly adverse parties may use delay tactics in bad faith to prolong litigation in attempts to push the other side towards settlement rather than a potentially unfavorable outcome at trial. Parties may also adopt these tactics out of emotion. While those tactics may work in the short-term, the law often punishes those tactics in the long-term. Courts do not take too kindly to unnecessary delay tactics and will punish parties accordingly.  

What Led This Case to the Court of Appeal?

The property at issue in Gamad v. Soriben Cal.App.Unpub. (2008) WL 2738587, was co-owned by Delia Soriben, Alfredo Z. Gamad Jr., Alfredo G. Gamad Sr., and Felicidad Gamad. (Id., at 1.) The Gamads sued Soriben for partition. (Id.)

In July 2005, the trial court found Gamad Jr. And Soriben owned three-quarters of the property as joint tenants. (Id.) The trial court also found that Gamad Sr. and Felicidad owned the remaining one-quarter interest as joint tenants. (Id.)

Additionally, the trial court ordered a partition by sale, with the sale proceeds distributed according to its findings. (Id.) The trial court directed Soriben to pay part of the Gamads’ attorney fees. (Id.)

Soriben appealed, arguing that the trial court should have reimbursed her for her contributions in acquiring the property before distributing the sale proceeds. (Id.) Soriben also contended that the trial court should have apportioned her attorney fees among the parties. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court’s basis for denying Soriben’s reimbursement was erroneous and remanded the case back to the trial court to determine Soriben’s reimbursement, if she was entitled to any. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held that Soriben’s attorney fees issue was unnecessary due to the remand. (Id.)

On remand, the trial court concluded that Soriben did not present any credible evidence that she was entitled to reimbursement. (Id.) The trial court once again denied Soriben’s claim for reimbursement. (Id.) Soriben did not challenge this ruling. (Id.)

Afterwards, the Gamads moved to allocate their attorney fees and sanctions, arguing that Soriben should pay more for the attorney fees because she acted in bad faith and prolonged litigation. (Id.) The Gamads conceded that the motion was untimely, but they contended that service of the motion would have been futile before. (Id.)

The trial court granted the Gamads’ motion for attorney fees but did not rule on the motion for sanctions, and Soriben appealed. (Id.) The Court of Appeal reversed in part and affirmed in part. (Id., at 3.)

Gamad’s Holding: Punishing Unnecessary Delays in Lawsuits

Under California law in partition actions, the court is allowed to award reasonable attorney’s fees incurred for the common benefit. (Id., at 1.) California law also authorizes the court to proportion the costs of partition according to the parties’ respective interests, or to make another equitable distribution. (Id.) Attorney’s fees can be incurred for the common benefit even in contested partition actions. (Id.)

In this case, the trial court ordered Soriben and her attorney to pay the Gamads forty percent of their attorney’s fees. (Id., at 2.) The trial court also concluded that Soriben and her attorney were jointly and severally liable for the attorney fee award. (Id.) The trial court found that Soriben and her attorney violated multiple court rules and needlessly increased the costs of litigation. (Id.)

Soriben argued that she should not pay for any of the Gamads’ attorney’s fees, or alternatively, that she should only pay according to her proportionate interest in the property. (Id.) She also argued that her attorney should not have been held jointly and severally liable for the attorney fees award. (Id.)

Soriben’s only argument that she was not liable for the attorney’s fees was because she won the previous appeal regarding the Gamads’ attorney’s fees. (Id.) Just because Soriben succeeded on the first appeal did not mean the attorney’s fees were not incurred for the common benefit. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held that the attorney’s fees the Gamads incurred were for the common benefit because the fees were intended to prevent unnecessary litigation. (Id.)

The Gamads claimed that Soriben had no support for her reimbursement claim. (Id.) On remand, the trial court examined the evidence and concluded that there was no evidence Gamad Sr. and Felicidad ever expected or agreed to contribute to the other owners’ expenses. (Id.) The trial court reaffirmed that Soriben was not entitled to reimbursement, and the Court of Appeal agreed. (Id.)

Soriben then argued that the trial court erred in increasing her share of the attorney fees by 2.5 percent. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held this increase was proper, writing: 

“Although this court held on the prior appeal that the trial court had rejected Soriben's claim for reimbursement based on an erroneous legal premise, on remand she failed to establish that any of the evidence admitted at trial established an entitlement to reimbursement. Thus, although she prevailed on the legal issue, substantial time and expense were devoted to a question that did not affect the ultimate partition and distribution of the proceeds from the sale of the property. Moreover, the record amply supports the trial court's determination that her confusion of the issues and violation of court rules resulted in extra and unnecessary work for the Gamads.” (Id.)

On the issue of holding Soriben’s attorney jointly and severally liable, the Court of Appeal held that this was improper since the court could only apportion partition costs among the parties. (Id.) The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment on this basis only and affirmed the trial court’s judgment on all other issues. (Id.)

Gamad demonstrates how courts frown upon unnecessary delay tactics parties may employ to prolong litigation. While there are various reasons parties may attempt to use bad faith strategies to drag out litigation, courts are quick to punish such behavior.

Gamad shows how parties can face the consequences of their actions when trying to delay litigation. The law has many rules in place to discourage these actions. The most common deterrent is monetary sanctions.  

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help You

As seen in Gamad, courts dislike it when parties needlessly prolong litigation. Whether the tactic was used as a bad faith strategy or employed emotionally, courts will usually sanction that type of behavior. Parties must understand that if they are the victims of delay tactics, they have legal avenues for relief.   

Here at Underwood Law Firm, our knowledgeable attorneys are here to help navigate the complex web of case law and statutes surrounding partitions. If you are trying to plan a partition order, or just have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office.  

Learn more here.

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