Compton Partition Lawyer

The City of Compton was first settled in 1867 by a group of 30 pioneers who were led by Griffith Dickenson Compton in an effort to find other methods of earning a living at the end of the California Gold Rush. For many years, Compton was an affluent city, with spacious and beautiful single-family homes. Today, Compton is most famously known as the home to the world's most famous rappers. As a town rich in history, many Compton residents may own property jointly, due to inheritance. As such, residents of Compton may face disputes with co-owners. There are at least four types of situations where a Compton Partition Attorney may be helpful:

  • Investor-Developer co-ownership of property;
  • Ex Romantic Partner co-ownership of property;
  • Shared Family co-ownership of property; and
  • Parent-Child co-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 Compton Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

What Are the Steps in a Partition Action?

The first step to a partition action is to petition the court for a partition of the property. In order to petition the court, a litigant must file a legally valid complaint for partition. As noted above, the litigant must be a co-owner of the subject property in order to have standing to file a partition complaint. (CCP § 872.210.)

Second, after filing the complaint, a litigant must then obtain an interlocutory judgment of partition in the correct procedural form. An interlocutory judgment is a temporary judgment ordered before the close of trial during the litigation of the case. Under Code of Civil Procedure section 872.720, the court must enter an interlocutory judgment when the court finds that the Plaintiff in a partition action is entitled to a partition. In order to obtain an interlocutory judgment, a litigant must establish their right to partition by proving they have an ownership interest in the subject property.

Third, if the court finds that a litigant has an ownership interest in the subject property and grants an interlocutory judgment of partition, the court will then appoint a partition referee to oversee the partition of the property. A partition referee is a neutral third party appointed by and accountable to the court to assist the court in matters related to partition actions. (CCP § 873.510.)

Fourth, Once the referee has provided the court with their report, the court must determine the proper method for partitioning the subject property. The court determines the proper method of partition by determining which method of partition is more equitable.

Fifth, once the court has determined the proper method of partitioning the subject property, the court will then order a final judgment of partition, and the property will be partitioned according to the proper method determined by the court. If the court orders a partition by sale, there must be an accounting to distribute the proceeds of the sale in strict compliance with the requirements of the evidentiary code. A top Compton Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Mediate a Partition Action?

A partition action can always be resolved informally at any time prior to the first day of trial, or entry of judgment. In fact, in numerous instances, just filing the partition itself leads the other party to seek a resolution between them. We always encourage the parties to talk throughout every phase of the process, as that can lead to the best outcomes for everyone.

From our perspective, every piece of litigation is just part of a larger “negotiation.” In any negotiation, the party who has the best leverage is usually able to achieve a more favorable outcome. The lawsuit provides the client with more leverage because they have more options available to them than without the prospect of a resolution from a judge. As such, all that a lawsuit does is provide one party with more leverage in the negotiation about how to resolve the dispute. For this reason, the best way to informally resolve a dispute is to combine discussions with active litigation, so that the matter can be quickly resolved without unnecessary expense. Throughout the process, our attorneys are in touch with our clients about their options and the prospects for informal resolution through mediation or negotiation. A knowledgeable Compton 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 Compton Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: West v. Woods (2010)

A person who has a concurrent interest in property has an absolute right to seek a partition unless barred by a valid waiver (CCP § 872.710(b)). The following paragraphs discuss how the Court of Appeal determines whether the time passed, in this case 15 years, since obtaining the interest in the property, bars a party’s ability to seek a partition in West v. Woods (2010) 2010 WL 2351923.

In West, Carolyn West filed a partition action against her former partner Albert Woods. Larry West, Carolyn’s brother purchased the subject house in 1978. The title was in his name and his wife’s, Flora West. Shortly thereafter, Carolyn moved into the house with her and Wood’s three children.

In 1979, Larry began to have financial problems so Woods agreed to loan Larry either $2,000 or $3,000 in exchange for a transfer of the house to Woods. Woods would then reconvey the property to Larry after the loan was paid. Larry and Flora executed the grant deed in favor of “Albert Woods, Jr., a single man, as his sole and separate property.”

In 1980, Larry and his wife moved out of the house and Woods moved in. Carolyn and the children remained in the house. In 1981, Woods went to prison and the home went into foreclosure. Carolyn asked Larry for help and he paid the delinquent balance due on the loan. Afterwards, Larry moved into the house and continued to pay the loan on the house and paid for a renovation of the kitchen.

Once Woods was released from prison, he went to the house where he lived except for a seven-month period when he was sent back to prison for violating his parole and then a later period after Carolyn filed a restraining order against him. In January 1990, Woods forced Carolyn out of the home.

Carolyn filed a complaint for breach of implied contract or constructive trust, alleging she had acquired a joint property interest in the house. At a bench trial the court asked Larry, who had acquired significant wealth since his financial difficulties, why he had not repaid Wood’s loan and again obtain title to the house. Larry explained that he wanted his sister and his nephew and nieces to remain in the house and have somewhere to stay. Carolyn testified that her name was not put on the deed when the house was conveyed to Woods because she was receiving federal aid, which she had used to help pay for the household expenses.

The court awarded Carolyn an undivided half-interest in the house finding that the facts of the transfer combined with Larry’s improvement on the property for the benefit of his sister, and the payment of the notes secured by the property by Larry in light of the relationship between Carolyn and Woods demonstrated an implied partnership or joint venture between Carolyn and Woods in and to the property. Woods appealed and the Court of Appeal for the Second District affirmed.

In 2007 Carolyn filed a complaint for partition alleging that Woods had been occupying the house or collecting income from its rental for the previous 15 years but failed to pay her any of the profits. Woods answered with a general denial and asserted several affirmative defenses. In July 2008 Woods moved to bifurcate and try first his affirmative defense that the 1992 judgment was unenforceable. Noting that Carolyn failed to record the judgment until October 2007, nearly 15 years after its entry, Woods argued the partition action was barred by CCP § 683.020 which provides a 10 year period for enforcement of certain judgments.

At the bench trial the court denied Woods’s motion finding that CCP § 683.020 was inapplicable. Following the bench trial, the court found that Carolyn was entitled to partition and that the house must be sold because division was not possible. Woods appealed.

Woods main contention was that Carolyn’s partition action was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeal however found that this argument was without merit. The Court stated that as a co-owner of the property, Carolyn had an absolute right to partition absent a waiver (CCP § 872.710(b)). Moreover, the statute of limitations never barred relief between tenants in common in an action for partition. Adams v. Hopkins, 77 P. 712, 715 (Cal. 1904). The exception is when a party has by operation of statute of limitations lost all right to and in the land and such right has by prescription become vested in another, that the statute of limitations cuts any figure in a partition case. Id. Here, Woods did not argue that he obtained Carolyn’s interest in the property by adverse possession.

The section that Woods attempted to rely on, CCP § 683.020, had no bearing on the case. The Court of Appeal clarified that this section provides a money judgment or judgment for possession or sale of property is unenforceable after 10 years. Woods acknowledged that the 1992 judgment was not a judgment for possession or for sale of property. Despite this, Woods argued that the judgment was “akin to a judgment of possession of real property” and therefore should fall under the statute. The Court did not see a basis to expand the clear language of the section to bar Carolyn’s partition, especially in light of well-established case law holding that a partition action may be brought at any time.

The Court of Appeal also noted that Woods’s argument was grounded on the misconception that Carolyn’s partition action sought to enforce the 1992 judgment. It did not. The action sought to sever those concurrent interests and was not predicated on any theory of disputed ownership. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

When a party has an interest in property, they have an absolute right to seek a partition. Although Woods attempted to bar Carolyn from partitioning the property by claiming it was barred by the statute of limitations, the Court enforces the idea that the right to seek partition is absolute. Time cannot prevent it, and there is only one exception to that rule.

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

A court’s determination of ownership interests in a property depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular case. Factors such as agreements and who pays for certain expenses for the property can ultimately affect the outcome of a partition case. If you are considering partition as an option, or find yourself defending one, then you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic. Please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C., for an initial consultation.

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