Sometimes people who co-own property can't agree on what to do with it. Neither wants to give up their share, but they have different and incompatible ideas about how it should be used. If negotiations have come to a standstill and all other options have been exhausted, one way of handling this impasse is to initiate a partition action. Here's more information about this option.

Real Estate Divorce

A partition action is similar to a divorce in that the courts legally divide the property so each co-owner gets a share. If there are two co-owners, for instance, the judge will split the property in half and each person would receive a deed and other documents affirming their legal right to use the property as they see fit.

There are three types of partition actions that can be initiated: partition in kind, partition by sale, and partition by allotment. Partition in kind legally divides the physical property between all parties. Partition by sale, on the other hand, forces the owners to sell the property in dispute and split the monetary proceeds. Partition by allotment is a hybrid of the two where one owner is awarded the entire property but is required to pay the other owners for their shares.

Like divorce, partition actions go much smoother when all parties are in agreement. However, you do not need permission from the other owner(s) to request a partition action, and the court will often grant the request as long as there isn't already a preexisting restriction on partitioning the property and/or separating the property wouldn't unfairly hurt one or more of the parties involved.

Partition Challenges

The exact rules for partitioning property vary by state. However, one commonality is courts will not partition properties that are too small or contain structures that make it impossible to divide it fairly. For example, if you and another person own one acre of land with a house that sits right in the middle of it, the court may force a partition by sale, since it's unfeasible to divide a physical structure such as a house.

Another issue is a share of the property doesn't always translate to an equal portion. The share you receive will be subjected to any legal restrictions or agreements already in effect. If your sibling was awarded 75 percent of the property from your parent via a will, the court will only give you the 25 percent share you are legally entitled to.

For more information about partition actions or help settling a property dispute, contact a real estate attorney.