Fullerton Partition Lawyers

Fullerton is a city in Orange County, in southern California. Fullerton was originally founded with land from the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway. It is best known as home to California State University, Fullerton and Fullerton College. In April 2023, Fullerton home prices were down 5.8% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $850K. On average, homes in Fullerton sell after 34 days on the market compared to 23 days last year. There were 49 homes sold in April this year, down from 100 last year. As part of Orange County, it has a very competitive housing market. As such, many persons may be interested in purchasing property as part of a partition sale. Generally, Fullerton Partition Attorneys usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing joint owners in four broad categories:

  • Parent-Child shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Brother-Sister shared tenants in common in real estate;
  • Investor-Investor shared tenants in common in real estate; and
  • Significant others shared tenants in common in real estate;
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 Fullerton 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 Fullerton 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 Fullerton 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 Fullerton Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Cohen v. Karubian Partition actions have lots of statutes that must be followed, especially in California. Though some statutes may be flexible, others may be more specific and rigid. Even if there is an area in partitions not covered by the statutes, there is likely a case regarding that situation.

It is important for parties to find legal authorities that are not only applicable to their situation, but also still good law that can convince a court. Sometimes, a case may seem perfect, but it was overruled, or it was based on outdated laws. Due diligence for legal authorities is essential in making legal arguments.

Said Cohen, Richard Karubian, and Touba Karubian were owners as tenants in common of the property at issue in Cohen v. Karubian (1969) 276 Cal.App.2d 44, and Cohen owned a fifty percent ownership interest while the Karbuians together owned another fifty percent interest. (Id., at 45.) The property was originally bought by Louis J. Johannsen and Gwendolyn H. Johannsen with a promissory note. (Id.)

Eventually, Said sued the Karubians and the Johannsens for partition. (Id.) After the lawsuit began, but before the trial, Said and his wife executed a grant deed to transfer their ownership interest to Mehdi Cohen and Albert Cohen. (Id.)

The trial court ordered a partition by sale. (Id.) The trial court found that a partition in kind would not be equitable and appointed a referee to oversee sale of the property at a public auction. (Id., at 46.) The trial court also ordered the property to be sold to pay off the Johannsens’ note and all interest accrued. (Id.)

The trial court ordered the sale proceeds to be distributed with the following priority: to pay the general costs, to pay the referee’s costs, to pay the Johannsens for what was due on the note, and the remaining proceeds were to be split between the Cohens and the Karubians fifty-fifty. (Id.) Said appealed the trial court’s judgment. (Id.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling. (Id., at 49.)

Cohen is a cautionary tale of how tricky the law around partition actions can be. Though there are many cases regarding partitions in California, it is essential to not just pay attention to what is applicable. The context surrounding the case is just as important, and the case itself may have been overruled. Parties must be vigilant in reading the fine print.

The only argument Said made on appeal was that the property should not have been sold free of the Johannsens’ note. (Id., at 46.) The statute the trial court used in its ruling, however, indicated that all encumbered property sold under partition will be discharged from all liens and encumbrances, besides liens that do not take priority over liens related to the owner obtaining title. (Id.) The Court of Appeal held that the trial court’s judgment was proper. (Id.)

Said cited a case to argue that there cannot be a sale where only one interest is subject to the lien. (Id., at 47.) After examining Said’s cited case, the Court of Appeal concluded that only one interest being subject to the lien was not determinative in that particular court’s decision. (Id.) The Court of Appeal wrote:

“The cited case was one for partition in which the interest of the owner of an undivided interest was subject to lien but not the interest of the other. The decree of the trial court ordered the property sold, the lien satisfied, and the balance distributed equally, thereby imposing upon the co-tenant, whose interest was not subject to the lien, the obligation of paying one-half of the lien. As the court was not concerned with a lien against the entire property, its statement: “While it is allowable to decree a sale in partition subject to a lien, where the lien is upon the united interest of all claimants to the property. ...” was not necessary for a determination of the question to be decided on appeal and was plainly obiter dictum.” (Id.)

The Court of Appeal also cited numerous recent authority where courts ordered a sale even when there was a lien on only one of the owners. (Id., at 48.) One particular case held that the lien must be satisfied in a sale even when it was only used to help one co-tenant purchase ownership interest in the property. (Id.)

Said further argued that the sale would bring financial hardship onto the parties. (Id.) The Court of Appeal rejected this argument, pointing to a previous case where the defendant had argued that a partition sale would put both parties into bankruptcy. (Id.) Quoting the previous case, the Court of Appeal wrote:

“‘... In brief, it seems to be conceded by both parties that a partition by sale would prove disastrous; and therefore it may be safely assumed that this was the reason which prompted the lower court to exercise its discretion in favor of an order for physical partition . . . It will thus be seen that the ultimate contention of the defendant Smith, is that partition of any kind should be denied until such time as partition would result in the fullest profit to both parties. This position is utterly untenable. Ordinarily, if the party seeking partition is shown to be a tenant in common, and as such entitled to the possession of the land sought to be partitioned, the right to partition is absolute, and cannot be denied, 'either because of any supposed difficulty, nor on the suggestion that the interest of the cotenants will be promoted by refusing the application or temporarily postponing action, to secure the advantages to result from a rise in market values.'’ (Rich v. Smith, 26 Cal.App. 775, 783 [148 P. 545].)” (Id., at 48-49.)

The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s judgment in selling the property unencumbered by the Johanssens’ note. (Id., at 49.)

Cohen is illustrative of how ineffective proper legal analysis can lead to poor outcomes. Partitions have specific sets of rules the court must follow, and California has a multitude of cases interpreting these rules. It is up to the parties to do their due diligence and ensure that their cases and arguments are up to date. Otherwise, they may be in for a rude awakening at trial and on appeal.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Cohen, there is a massive amount of case law and statutes regarding partition actions. Even extremely specific or niche situations often have a law or case that can apply. It is the parties’ responsibility to search and analyze these legal authorities so that they are not caught off guard by the court.

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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Newport Beach, CA 92660

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