Clovis Partition Lawyers

Clovis is in a city in Fresno County, California, and a suburb of the City of Fresno. Clovis has a population of 120,124 and is located in California’s Central Valley. It is known for its family-friendly activities like the Big Dry Creek Animal Park, the hot air balloon rides, excellent restaurants, and located quite close to the California State University at Fresno, or Fresno State. Generally, the best Closiv Partition Lawyers usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Family owned tenants-in-common where only one party wants to sell;
  • Former romantic partners tenants-in-common where only one party wants to sell;
  • Jointly owned tenants-in-common where only one party wants to sell;
  • Partnership tenants-in-common where only one party wants to sell;
What Is a Partition Action in California?

Partitions are lawsuits that split up the property between multiple co-owners so that each can take their equity out of the home. The prototypical partition are between siblings, former romantic partners, or business partners. Both own parts of the property, but only one wants to end the relationship and take their money out. Partitions enable this to happen, usually ending with a court-ordered sale of the subject property. 

Basically, any person who is an owner of real estate can bring a partition action in California. Code of Civil Procedure section 872.710, subdivision (a), states "A partition action may be commenced and maintained by any…owner of…such property." California Civil Code section 872.210 provides a property owner with the "absolute right to partition" absent a valid waiver. Thus, a partition action can be brought by anyone who no longer wants to own jointly owned real estate, other than spousal property.

Generally, a partition action cannot be stopped absent a valid waiver. The instances in which a court has found a valid waiver have generally involved some sort of written contract or adverse possession of property. As such, many parties try to stop a partition action through mediation, or a buy-out agreement. In most instances, the parties to a partition action can benefit from creative lawyering by those who are familiar with the different options for resolving real estate disputes. The best Clovis 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 Clovis 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 Clovis 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 Clovis Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Garcia v. Garcia Sanchez (2011)

There are several different types of issues that can be brought before a court. For some issues, courts do not even have to give parties a jury trial and they can simply decide on the issue themselves. It is important for parties to understand what types of issues their claims fall under, so that they can prepare their strategies accordingly.

This is essential in partitions cases where there often can be a mix of different claims. While parties may seek partitions, they may also seek additional relief on issues besides partitions. This can complicate the case and the legal arguments that parties should be making.

The plaintiff in Garcia v. Garcia Sanchez, Cal. App.Unpub., (2011) WL 1797198, alleged that he and his sister, Petra Garcia, jointly owned a piece of property used for farming, where they divided the farm’s income equally between them. (Id., at 1.) In December 2004, Petra wanted to refinance the property and asked the plaintiff for his help. (Id.) Petra told the plaintiff that his credit score was too poor for them to jointly qualify for a loan. (Id.) Instead, Petra said that if the plaintiff released his ownership interest to her, then she would refinance the loan and return it to him afterwards. (Id.)

Petra’s representations to the plaintiff, however, were false, and Petra knew they were false. (Id.) The plaintiff believed Petra and signed a deed to her. (Id.) Petra then refused to return the plaintiff’s interest to him. (Id.) The plaintiff sued Petra and her husband, Brent Sanchez, on a number of claims, including a partition by sale. (Id.) Since the plaintiff was illiterate and depended on the defendants to take care of his finances, the plaintiff also alleged a breach of fiduciary duty. (Id.) Petra filed a cross-complaint against the plaintiff, stating that she should be the sole owner. (Id.) In her cross-complaint, Petra asked for a partition if the plaintiff was found to have an interest in the property. (Id.)

At the start of the trial, the trial court realized that there were two different issues in this case: legal and equitable issues. (Id.) The legal issues, which were the fraud and breach of fiduciary duty claims, would have to be brought before a jury, while the trial court could decide the equitable issues. (Id.) The trial court eventually decided to decide on the equitable issues first, as determining who had title of the property was both parties’ primary concerns. (Id.)

After the court trial, the trial court found in favor of the defendants on the equitable issues, including that Petra was the sole owner. (Id., at 2.) The trial court held that the plaintiff entered into the transaction with Petra voluntarily with no promise that she would return the property. (Id.) The trial court also decided that the two legal issues, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, were disposed of by this determination and so there was no need for a jury trial. (Id.) The plaintiff appealed the trial court, and the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Garcia is a cautionary tale on not properly tweaking one’s litigation strategy for the situation. The problems that the court identifies in one’s case may not necessarily be the problems the party identifies, and it is vital that parties adapt to the situation.

The plaintiff in Garcia first argued that the trial court improperly denied him a jury trial on his claims for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. (Id.) Generally, when legal and equitable remedies are both sought, the equitable issues are tried first and a jury is called if any legal issues are left unresolved. (Id., at 3.)

In all of the plaintiff’s claims, he demanded declaratory relief. (Id.) While declaratory relief is generally used to classify claims as equitable, declaratory relief can also raise legal issues which could allow a jury trial. (Id., at 4.) In Garcia, however, the Court of Appeal held that the plaintiff’s declaratory relief was equitable in nature, not legal, which meant that the plaintiff was not entitled to a jury trial. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal also held that Petra’s cross-complaint only presented equitable issues. (Id., at 5.) Petra sought to determine that the plaintiff had no interest in the property, and wanted a judgment stating that she was the sole owner. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded that this was an equitable issue, not a legal issue. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal then concluded that the trial court had properly split the equitable claims to be tried first. (Id., at 6.) Multiple cases in California supported the notion of trying equitable claims first when there was a mix of equitable and legal claims. (Id., at 8.) The case law also supported the idea that passing judgment on the equitable claims could dispose of the legal claims. (Id.)

The plaintiff then argued that judgment on the equitable claims would only dispose of the legal issues when the legal and equitable remedies sought were mutually exclusive. (Id., at 9.) The plaintiff contended that the remedies sought were not mutually exclusive, so he should have had a trial on his claim of legal remedy for damages. (Id.) The remedies the plaintiff was seeking, however, were mutually exclusive and for the same alleged wrongdoing. (Id.) The Court of Appeal found that the plaintiff could only have one of the remedies for the alleged wrongdoing, but not both. (Id.)

The Court of Appeal then summarized its view on the trial court’s judgment:

“Cases indicate it is the ‘better practice’ to try the equitable issues before the legal issues . . . The trial court did so, and we find no abuse of discretion in that decision. The legal and equitable causes of action were based on the same set of facts and the same alleged wrongs. After hearing the evidence, the trial court found . . . the agreement was not the result of any fraud, misrepresentation, or breach of fiduciary duty. The court's disposition of the equitable issues obviated the need for a trial of the legal claims for damages, which were based on the same allegations of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty that the court determined adversely to plaintiff. Plaintiff was not denied his right to a jury trial of the legal issues.” (Id.)

Garcia illustrates how courts categorize different issues and claims. This categorization can affect how a court views those issues, and so can have a massive impact on a party’s litigation strategy. Courts can sever equitable and legal issues, deciding on certain issues without a jury. They can also decide that the decision on the equitable issues dispose of the legal issues. Parties must understand this differentiation of issues at the outset of litigation so that they can be prepared for all outcomes.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Garcia the law can be full of intricacies that can affect many aspects of litigation. This includes the difference between legal and equitable issues, and how courts can sever the two at trial. Parties must be prepared to change their litigation strategy as the trial progresses.

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.

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