Justia Lawyer Rating
Super Lawyers
Avvo Client's Choice
Avvo 10
Lawyers of Distinction
Million Dollar Advocates Forum

Stanislaus County Partition Lawyers

Stanislaus County is located in California’s central valley, with its county seat in Modesto. In 1854, the State organized Stanislaus County with a population of under 1,000. Stanislaus County is home to several communities, including the cities of Ceres, Modesto, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, Turlock, and Waterford. The Stanislaus County Superior Court has 25 judgeships. Generally, a quality Stanislaus County Partition Lawyer usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • 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?

A partition action is a lawsuit brought by a property owner seeking the court to force the sale of a jointly owned piece of real property. Typically, partition actions occur when co-owners of real estate have disputes about its ownership and use, and one of them seeks to end their ownership interest. That is, a partition action has no other purpose than to sever the unity of possession between cotenants in a piece of real property. (Rancho Santa Margarita v. Vail (1938) 11 Cal.2d 501, 539.) Currently, partition actions are governed by the provisions set forth in the Code of Civil Procedure section 872.010. These statutes set out a general process by which a property may be partitioned. 

Historically, the term "partition" comes from the basic word to break into "parts" as in physically dividing real estate in half. For example, if two siblings inherited ten acres of farmland, the property could historically be divided into five acres a piece for each of them. As most people now live in single-family homes, which cannot simply be "split in half," courts will instead order that the property be sold and the proceeds, or equity, be "split in half." The best Stanislaus County Partition Lawyer will be able to share information on this process with you.

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 an appraiser to appraise the property and offer the other owner the opportunity to buy out the interest. Third, if the other fails to do so, then the Court appoints a “partition referee” (who is frequently a licensed Realtor) to sell the property, and they market and sell 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.” A top Stanislaus County 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 Stanislaus County Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What Are Claims for “Contribution”?

Under the law, a property owner can make a claim for contribution for anything that they have expended for the common benefit of all the parties as it relates to their jointly-owned property. Code of Civil Procedure section 874.410 states that “the court may, in all cases, order allowance, accounting, contribution, or other compensatory adjustment among the parties according to the principles of equity.” For example, the credits can include expenditure in excess of the co-tenants fractional share for necessary repairs and improvements that enhance the value of the property. (Wallace v. Daley (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1028, 1035-1036.) Similarly, payments for interest, taxes, and insurance made by any co-tenant could be the subject of a reimbursement claim. (Hunterv. Schultz (1966) 240 Cal.App.2d 24.) An experienced Stanislaus County Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

A Partition Case Study: Tavares v. Varain

Partition actions are equitable proceedings, which follow the broad principles governing equity, and require fairness. Equity is equality in partition proceedings. Prior to today’s partition statutory provisions, co-owners used to be entitled to partition in kind regardless of whether it is difficult or inconvenient to physically divide the property. Today, most jurisdictions allow the court to order a partition of the property by sale where the court finds that a physical division of the property is impracticable, or where it would be manifestly prejudicial to the parties. The following paragraphs discuss how certain circumstances can affect the court’s determination on the manner of partition in Tavares v. Varain (2005) 2005 WL 236385.

In Tavares, Marvin and Rose Varain (the “Varains”) brought suit against Marvin’s daughter and son in law, Karen and George Tavares (the “Tavares”) seeking an order to enjoin the Tavares from committing waste on the property and a judicial determination of the parties’ rights concerning their use and development of the property. The property was made up of two parcels: (1) a smaller and less desirable parcel, and (2) a larger parcel. The Tavares cross-complained, seeking to partition the property by sale with a division of the proceeds between the parties. The Varains’ answer asserted that a partition by sale was not equitable because of its unique value as Marvin had purchased the property from his parents and the property also adjoined his own separate property. The Varains also asserted that they were ready to purchase the Tavares’ interest in the property. The trial court issued an interlocutory judgment, ordering: (1) each side to submit a sealed bid for parcel two, the larger parcel that both sides preferred; (2) the minimum bid would be $50,000, which was the appraised value of parcel two; and (3) the winning bidder would receive parcel two and the losing bidder would receive parcel one in addition to half the difference between the successful bid for parcel two and the $12,000 appraised value of parcel one. The trial court also determined that neither party was a prevailing party, and ordered that each party should bear their own costs and attorney fees. The Tavares appealed.

Prior to bringing suit, the Martin and his ex-wife, Betty, acquired the property comprising of two parcels from Marvin’s mother as joint tenants. Marvin also had as his own separate property, a river bottom property which was south of and contiguous with parcel two of the property. Both parcels and the river bottom property had been in the family since the 1880s. When Martin and Betty split, the court awarded each of them an undivided one-half interest in the property as tenants in common. Martin then married Rose, and Betty sold her interest to the Tavares. As such, the Varains and the Tavares held title to the property as tenants in common. Both parties used and leased the property for cattle grazing without the permission of the other, which caused disputes between them regarding the use and development of the property.

At trial, the trial court determined that the general rule for a partition in kind was not applicable because the property could not be divided into equal parcels under California Code of Civil Procedure section 872.810. Because the trial court could not find that it was more equitable for one party to end up with the desired larger parcel, and determined that the facts and circumstances did not support a sale of both parcels under section 872.820, the trial court concluded that the case required an application of section 872.830. Code of Civil Procedure section 872.830 provides for a sale of a portion of the property and a partition of the remainder. The Tavares contended that the trial court erred in not ordering a partition by sale of the property.

On appeal, the California Fifth District Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court and affirmed the judgment. The Court of Appeal reasoned that the trial court’s refusal to order the sale of the entire property meant that the Tavareses had not carried their burden of showing that the sale would be more equitable than a physical division as required by the governing partition statutes. (Butte Creek Island Ranch v. Crim, III (1982) 136 Cal.App.3d 360, 365.) Both parties wanted to retain the property, had a personal attachment to the property, and both wished to obtain parcel two. There was no evidence to suggest that partitioning the property in accordance with the parcels would diminish the economic value of the entire property or separate parcels.

Further, “neither parcel was economically viable as a cattle ranching operation and there was no evidence that the two parcels together were any more viable as such.” Additionally, the Court of Appeal found that the parcels were separated by an impassable canal, which demonstrated that the parcels had not interacted or functioned like a unit. Thus, the Court of Appeal held that the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that a sale of the entire property was not the most equitable manner of partition. Dividing the entire property into parcels of equal value was also not feasible because zoning restrictions prevented the further division of the parcels. As such, the Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court’s determination for an unequal division of the property, and for the winning party to compensate the losing party to equalize the values.

The Court of Appeal deemed the trial court’s resolution of the problem as wise as it allowed the Tavareses and Varains to own and enjoy a portion of the property, allowed the party who placed the most economic value on parcel two to obtain it, and ensured that the party receiving parcel one to keep that parcel, and be compensated with an equalizing payment by the winning bidder. The Court of Appeal reasoned that “the more the willing party is willing to pay for the better parcel, the more compensation the losing party will receive.” The Court of Appeal also affirmed the trial court’s ruling on the attorneys fees, reasoning that neither party was a prevailing party because both parties were successful in certain aspects. Further, because “attorney fees cannot be awarded until a final judgment is entered … such fees should not be included in an interlocutory judgment.” (Broome v. Broome (1919) 179 Cal. 638.) As such, the Tavares raised this issue prematurely. 

How the Underwood Law Firm Can Help

The manner in which a court determines the manner of partition depends on the facts and circumstances of a case. The court’s determination is based on equitable principles. As there are various factors that a play a role in the court’s determination for the mode of partition, you may benefit from good legal advice on the topic if you are considering partition. If you find yourself contemplating a partition action, or faced with defending one, then please contact Underwood Law Firm, P.C. for an initial consultation.

Learn more here.

Client Reviews
“We were in need of a real estate attorney. Eli Underwood provided excellent legal advice and services. He explained everything well and followed through with all important issues that needed attention. We found him to be reliable, courteous, patient and extremely professional. We highly recommend Mr. Underwood without any reservations.” I.S.
"I own a real estate investment company that operates across multiple states (California, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and more), whenever I run into an issue that needs legal attention, Eli is my first call. I've been working with him for years. He is an amazing attorney and I highly recommend him." Thank you for your help Sir!" T.W.
"Mr. Underwood is a fantastic Lawyer with extraordinary ethics. He responds quickly, which is rare these days, and he is very knowledgeable in his craft. It was a pleasure working with him and we will definitely use his services in the future if needed. Thank you for your help Sir!" M.O.
"Eli took our case and controlled every hurdle put before us. I one time commented to him that he must love his job because it seemed that he was always available. When talking about my case to anyone I always bring up where, I believe, the other parties Lawyer tried to take advantage of my wife and me. Eli stopped him in his tracks. On top of it being easy to work with Eli, it was a pleasure to have had him represent us. We were in good hands." E.T
"We were in need of an attorney with considerable knowledge of real estate law and the legal issues related to property ownership. Eli Underwood went above and beyond our expectations. In keeping us abreast of our suit, his communication skills were outstanding. This talent was especially demonstrated when dealing with the apposing counsel. We feel this gave us a tremendous advantage over the opposing party that resulted in us reaching a successful outcome. I would highly recommend Eli Underwood as we found him to be an exceptional attorney." P.B.
"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.