National City Partition Lawyers

The land that is now known as National City has a history dating back to approximately 130,000 years ago. In 1868, Frank Kimball and his brothers purchased the land and began building the foundation of the city. National City is located in the southwestern part of San Diego County and is the second oldest city in the county. As a town with rich history, residents of National City may often own homes through inheritance with other co-owners. Jointly owned real estate may become a problem if a dispute arises between co-owners.

What is a Partition Action?

A partition lawsuit requires real estate to be sold regardless of the requests of the other title owners. The purpose of a partition action is to permanently end all disputes and remove all obstacles to the free enjoyment of land by one person. (McGillivray v. Evans(1864) 27 Cal.92.) These types of actions can be brought for all types of real estate from houses to farms to office buildings to apartment buildings. Similarly, partition actions are available all types of ownership situations from joint tenants to tenants-in-common to partnership property to property jointly owned by former spouses.

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. Virtually universally, the instances in which a court has found a valid waiver have 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.

What are the Steps in a Partition Action?

Broadly, a partition action has only relatively simple steps. First, a party files a lawsuit to establish their rights to the property and desire to sell the property. Second, the court determines that the property should be sold, and appoints a “partition referee” (who is frequently a licensed Realtor) to sell the property. Third, the partition referee markets and sells the property and deposits the proceeds into a trust account. Fourth, the court determines how much each party should receive from the proceeds, which should include addressing offsets and claims for contribution in an “accounting.”

What are the Common Types of Partition Actions?

Generally, a partition action is the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • 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 an Example of a Partition Lawsuit?

In a partition action, costs include reasonable attorney fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit. (CCP § 874.010(a).) A trial court may apportion these fees “among the parties in proportion to their interests or make such other apportionment as may be equitable.” (CCP § 870.040.) Unless the trial court’s apportionment exceeds the bounds of reason and results in a miscarriage of justice, the apportionment will be upheld. Recently, the California Court of Appeal addressed the apportionment of such fees in a case known as Van Diepen v. Sasaki Bollinger (2020) 2020 Cal.App.Unpub.LEXIS 6120.

There, Van Diepen and Bollinger co-owned a house and Van Diepen sought to partition that Property. The trial court granted the partition and Van Diepen moved for attorney fees, claiming that Bollinger should pay all of her fees as Bollinger made time-consuming and meritless arguments at trial. Bollinger opposed Van Diepen’s motion, arguing that only a portion of Van Diepen’s fees were for the common benefit. The trial court found that Bollinger raised issues without success based on questionable grounds which inflated fees for both sides and the litigation should never have been necessary. Thus, Van Diepen was needlessly put through the wringer litigation by Bollinger’s actions. The trial court ordered Bollinger to pay the entirety of Van Diepen’s attorney fees, totaling over $91,000. Bollinger appealed.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that “section 874.040 broadly allows the trial court to make such apportionment as may be equitable. It unambiguously permits the court to apportion fees based on equitable considerations, without limit.” Because each of Bollinger’s arguments prolonged what should have been a simple partition action, Bollinger inflated the fees for both sides. California Code of Civil Procedure, section 874.010 permits a trial court to find that fees incurred for “advocating a position of limited merit” are not “for the common benefit” and should be borne by the party “pressing” such “spurious matters.” (Forrest v. Elam (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 164, 173-174.) The Appellate Court determined that an inverse scenario occurred here as Van Diepen incurred attorney fees to defend against Bollinger’s challenges of limited merit. As such, Bollinger should be charged as the party “pressing” such “spurious matters.”

Thus, Van Diepen instructs that a party may face consequences and be ordered to pay attorney fees for pursuing meritless arguments that prolong litigation.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help

In order to start resolving these situations, you should contact an experienced National City Partition Lawyer as soon as you are ready to start the next chapter of your life.

Learn more here.

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"In our need for legal services we found Eli to be well informed and on top of our case and our needs. Our's was not an ordinary case as it was a case with many facets. It was a very convoluted case. There were multiple owners involved in a property dispute where one of the owners sued the rest of the owners with a Partition Suit. Needless to say Eli was instrumental in helping us resolve our differences and gained us a profitable sale all with good end results for all. If you hire Eli Underwood you will not be disappointed!" M.A.