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West Covina Partition Lawyers

The City of West Covina was incorporated on February 17, 1923, and became home to an abundance of walnut and orange groves. After the Second World War, the city experienced an exponential growth in population from 1500 residents to more than 50,000 residents. As a result, West Covina experienced a wave of new developments and projects on its land. Today, over 60% of West Covina homes are owner-occupied, suggesting that many homes are jointly owned. According to Redfin, In April 2023, West Covina home prices were down 3.0% compared to last year, selling for a median price of $785K. On average, homes in West Covina sell after 29 days on the market compared to 16 days last year. There were 37 homes sold in April this year, down from 45 last year. As such, residents of West Covina may face disputes with co-owners. Generally, the best West Covina Partition Lawyers usually find partition action to be the best remedy for disputing co-owners in four broad categories:

  • Split owned real estate dispute;
  • Brother-Sister real estate dispute;
  • Investor-Investor real estate dispute; and
  • Significant other real estate dispute
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 West Covina 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 West Covina Partition lawyer will be familiar with the process.

Can You Recover Attorneys’ Fees in a Partition Action?

Code of Civil Procedure, section 874.010 states that “[t]he costs of partition include: (a) [r]easonable attorney’s fees incurred or paid by a party for the common benefit.”

Interestingly, the costs of partition can also include reasonable expenses necessarily incurred by a party for the common benefit in prosecuting or defending other actions or proceedings for the protection, confirmation, or perfection of title, setting the boundaries, or making a survey of the property. (CCP § 874.020.)

That attorney’s fees are considered “costs” associated with a partition action is important because Section 874.040 goes on to state the “court shall apportion the costs of partition among the parties in proportion to their interests or make such other apportionment as may be equitable.” A knowledgeable West Covina Partition Attorney will be able to give you good advice on these issues.

What are Claims for “Contribution”?

Before the sales proceeds are distributed among the parties, a court-ordered accounting will determine the charges and credits upon each co-owner’s interest. These credits are taken out of the net proceeds before the balance is divided equally. (Southern Adjustment Bureau, Inc. v. Nelson (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 539 (“Nelson”).)

“When a cotenant makes advances from his own pocket to preserve the common estate, his investment in the property increases by the entire amount advanced. Upon sale of the estate, he is entitled to his reimbursement before the balance is equally divided.” (Nelson, 230 Cal.App.2d, at p. 541, citing William v. Koyer (1914) 168 Cal.369.)

As such, a party to a partition action must produce and gather their evidence and make sure that it is presented to the court so they can receive full credit for the value that they have added to the property. While a party may have a right to these credits under the law, ultimately, they will not be counted unless they can be presented in the proper form. An experienced West Covina Partition Attorney will be intimately familiar with these matters.

Nielson v. Courtney: Providing Legal Analysis in Litigation

One essential aspect of litigation is providing legal support for the courts when the courts consider your arguments. Such legal support are legal authorities that can include statutes and case law. It is also vital that parties prepare further legal analysis of these authorities to convince the court of that party’s particular position.

When a party lacks sufficient legal analysis, the party’s arguments inevitably become assertions without any support from the law. Such assertions never play well before courts, who can and will simply dismiss a case for lack of legal support.

The property at issue in Nielson v. Courtney (2023) Cal.App.Unpub. WL 3515613, was a home in Newbury Park co-owned by Brett A. Nielson and Shannon J. Courtney. (Id., at 1.) Nielson and Courtney were a couple whose relationship eventually crumbled. (Id.) Nielson sued Courtney for partition of the Newbury Park property, and he requested the court to order a sale. (Id.) The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Nielson. (Id.) The trial court also entered an interlocutory judgment of partition by sale. (Id.)

After the court’s interlocutory judgment, Nielson and Courtney moved for attorney fees awards. (Id.) Nielson claimed he sued for partition for the common benefit because the sale proceeds would be split between him and Courtney. (Id.) Nielson asked the court to apportion all of his fees to Courtney because she refused to cooperate with the sale. (Id.) He also claimed that Courtney’s actions in the sale were delay tactics that were not for the common benefit. (Id.)

Courtney argued that her actions were necessary because Nielson’s attorney refused to communicate with her attorney. (Id.) Courtney requested that the trial court deny Nielson’s request and order him to pay the costs she claimed to have incurred. (Id.)

The trial court found it difficult to determine which one of the attorneys had refused communication. (Id.) In the end, the trial court ruled that the attorney fees were necessary and for the common benefit because Nielson and Courtney could not have done a partition sale by themselves. (Id.) The trial court awarded Nielson $16,750 and Courtney $19,800 in attorney fees. (Id.) Nielson appealed, and the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment. (Id.)

Nielson is a cautionary tale on failing to use legal authorities. When parties appear before the court, the parties are expected to provide the court with legal analysis in support of their position. Courts do not take kindly to arguments that lack any form of legal support.

Nielson argued that the trial court should have granted his request to apportion his attorney fee to Corutney. (Id.) Nielson also contended that the trial court should not have awarded Courtney any attorney fees. (Id.)

To support his argument that the trial court should have granted his request, Nielson provided no legal analysis. (Id., at 2.) He only provided the Court of Appeal with conclusory statements, and he had no citations. (Id.) The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court’s decision was proper. (Id.) The Court of Appeal wrote:

“The evidence showed that Nielson and Courtney had a “toxic” relationship and made ‘unreasonable’ demands of each other throughout this litigation. Either one or both of their attorneys refused to engage with the other. Both sides’ actions dragged out the case longer than necessary. Such needless actions support the trial court's equitable decision not to apportion Nielson's attorney fee award entirely to Courtney. There was no abuse of discretion.” (Id.)

For Nielson’s argument that Courtney should not have been awarded any attorney fees, Nielson again provided no legal authorities. (Id.) Nielson merely asserted that Courtney provided no common benefits in the lawsuit because she denied that Nielson was entitled to a partition. (Id.) This assertion went completely against California law. (Id.) The Court of Appeal rejected Nielson’s contention, writing:

“There was also no abuse of discretion when the trial court granted Courtney's attorney fee request. As with his apportionment argument, Nielson supports this contention with no legal analysis. Instead, he simply asserts that Courtney provided no common benefit in the case because she filed an answer to his partition request in which she denied that Nielson was entitled to relief. This assertion ignores the long-standing principle in California law that “fees incurred by a defendant to a partition action [can] be for the common benefit, and therefore allocable in part to the plaintiff, despite the fact that the defendant had ‘resisted partition.’ . . . ‘[T]hat [an] action was contested [is] no bar to the proportional allocation of attorney fees.’ (Orien, at p. 967.)” (Id.)

Finally, Nielson wanted the Court of Appeal to reweigh evidence on which party delayed the lawsuit and which attorney refused to engage with the other. (Id.) The Court of Appeal declined to revisit the evidence. (Id.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s overall judgment and allowed Courtney to recover her costs on appeal. (Id.)

Nielson illustrates just how incredibly important providing legal analysis and using legal authorities are in a court setting. When Nielson brought his case before the Court of Appeal, he provided zero legal support for any of his claims. This is not only completely unacceptable, but it is also totally foolish.

Nielson shows just how important providing legal authorities are within a legal setting. Mere “because I said so” or “because it’s unfair” arguments will not have any mileage before a court. Legal support is always necessary, whether that’s statutes or case law. Otherwise, a court will not even entertain your case.

How Underwood Law Firm Can Help

As seen in Nielson, legal arguments in partition actions are heavily reliant on the support of legal authorities. This is obviously not just unique to partition actions, as any argument in any type of lawsuit will require legal analysis. It is the parties’ responsibility to research the right legal authorities to support their arguments. Failing to do one’s due diligence in litigation can lead to a waste of time and money that culminates into disaster.

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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