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Any division of real property or Personal Property between co-owners, resulting in individual ownership of the interests of each.

The co-ownership of real and personal property can have many benefits to the parties. But when there is discord and the owners cannot agree on the use, improvement, or disposition of the property, all states have laws that permit the remedy of partition.

Most cases of partition involve real property. Persons can own property as tenants in common or joint tenants. As common owners of the property, they have equal rights in the use and enjoyment of the property. Partition statutes allow those who own property in common to sever their interests and take their individual share of the property.

Partition may be either voluntary or compulsory. Voluntary partition is when the cotenants (owners) divide the property themselves, usually by exchanging individual deeds. Each co-owner owns a part of the property and ceases to have an undivided interest in the whole. The parties can also provide for the sale of the property and divide the proceeds among themselves.

When the co-owners cannot agree on the value of the property and their rightful shares, they may select a disinterested third person, such as an arbitrator or an appraiser, to divide the property and to allot the shares. A voluntary partition by all the co-owners is legally effective unless there is a contractual challenge to its recognition. These challenges include allegations of Fraud or unconscionability, or the allegation that the parties are seeking to defraud a third party by agreeing to the partition.

When the co-owners cannot agree to a voluntary partition, a lawsuit to compel partition can be filed to sever property interests. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, a tenant in common or a joint tenant has the absolute right to seek a compulsory partition. Partition must be made even if every other owner objects to it. The motives of the party seeking partition are irrelevant, and the court that hears the lawsuit has no discretion to deny partition. Its main function is to determine the method of executing the partition. Commonly the court will order the property sold and the proceeds divided, instead of ordering a physical partition of the property. If the title to the property is put into issue, most states permit the court to resolve this issue as well as the partition.

Both real and personal property can be subject to compulsory partition. Real property that can be subject to partition includes a building, a story of a building, the land on which a building rests, or the surface of land where there is an oil or gas lease.

Similarly, personal property can be subjected to compulsory partition. The fact that the property is owned in unequal shares does not affect the partition. The right has been enforced with respect to a cashier's check payable jointly to those who share a Tenancy in Common, promissory notes, shares of stock in a corporation, and stocks of merchandise.

Further readings

Thomas, David A., ed. 1998. Thompson on Real Property. Charlottesville, Va.: LEXIS.


Joint Tenancy.


n. 1) a lawsuit in which one co-owner of real property can file to get a court order requiring the sale of the property and division of the profits, or division of the land between the co-owners which is often a practical impossibility. Normally, a partition order provides for an appraisal of the total property, which sets the price for one of the parties to buy out the other's half. Partition cases are common when co-owners differ on whether to sell, keep, or divide the property.


verb allocate, allot, apportion, break up, carve, compartmentalize, cut up, dissect, distribute, divide, divide into distinct portions, divide into portions, divide into shares, divide proportionately, divide up, dole out, form into classes, group, mete, mete out, parcel out, place in a category, portion, portion out, prorate, section, sectionalize, segment, sever, sever the unity of possession, share, split up, subdivide
Associated concepts: partition property
See also: allot, allotment, apportion, apportionment, assign, assignment, barrier, bifurcate, chapter, classify, decentralization, demarcate, dichotomize, disassociation, dispensation, disperse, disseminate, distribution, divide, division, parcel, part, schism, segregation, separate, separation, sever, split, subdivide, subdivision


a division of property, especially realty, among joint owners.

PARTITION, conveyancing. A deed of partition is, one by which lands held in joint tenancy, coparcenary, or in common, are divided into distinct portions, and allotted to the several parties, who take them in severalty.
     2. In the old deeds of partition, it was merely agreed that one should enjoy a particular part, and the other, another part, in severalty; but it is now the practice for the parties mutually to convey and assure to each other the different estates which they are to take in severalty, under the partition. Cruise Dig. t. 32, c. 6, s. 15.

PARTITION, ?states. The division which is made between several persons, of lands, tenements, or hereditaments, or of goods and chattels which belong to them as co-heirs or co-proprietors. The term is more technically applied to the division of real estate made between coparceners, tenants in common or joint tenants.
     2. The act of partition ascertains and fixes what each of the co- proprietors is entitled to have in severalty
     3. Partition is either voluntary, or involuntary, by compulsion. Voluntary partition is made by the owners of the estate, and by a conveyance or release of that part to each other which is to be held by him in severalty.
     4. Compulsory partition is made by virtue of special laws providing that remedy. "It is presumed," says Chancellor Kent, 4 Com. 360, "that the English statutes of 31 and 32 Henry VIII. have been generally reenacted and adopted in this country, and probably, with increased facilities for partition." In some states the courts of law have jurisdiction; the courts of equity have for a long time exercised jurisdiction in awarding partition. 1 Johns. Ch. R. 113; 1 Johns. Ch. R. 302; 4 Randolph's R. 493; State Eq. Rep. S. C. 106. In Massachusetts, the statute authorizes a partition to be effected by petition without writ. 15 Mass. R. 155; 2 Mass. Rep. 462. In Pennsylvania, intestates' estates, may be divided upon petition to the orphans' court. By the civil code of Louisiana, art. 1214, et seq., partition of a succession may be made. Vide, generally, Cruise's Dig. tit. 32, ch. 6, s. 1 5; Com. Dig. Pleader, 3 F; Id. Parcener, C; Id. vol. viii. Append. h.t. 16 Vin. Ab. 217; 1 Supp. to Yes. jr. 168, 171; Civ. Code of Louis. B. 3, t. 1, c. 8.
     5. Courts of equity exercise jurisdiction in cases of partition on various grounds, in cases of such complication of titles, when no adequate remedy can be had at law; 17 Ves. 551; 2 Freem. 26; but even in such cases the remedy in equity is more complete, for equity directs conveyances to be made, by which the title is more secure. "Partition at law, and in equity," says Lord Redesdale, "are very different things. The first operates by the judgment of a court of law, and delivering up possession in pursuance of it, which concludes all the parties to it. Partition in equity proceeds upon conveyances to be executed by the parties; and if the parties be not competent to execute the conveyance, the partition cannot be effectually had." 2 Sch. & Lef. 371. See 1 Hill. Ab. c. 55, where may be found an abstract of the laws of the several states on this subject.

References in classic literature ?
She rose abruptly; walked with a certain deliberation along the side of the partition which separated the adjoining closet from the studio, and seemed to be examining the sash through which her light came,-- giving so much importance to it that she mounted a chair to raise the green serge, which intercepted the light, much higher.
She then secured the curtain and came down, pushed the chair and table as far as possible from the partition, returned to her easel, and seemed to be arranging it to suit the volume of light she had now thrown upon it.
I heard the fighting beyond the partition through which you passed, but I did not fear for you, John Carter, until I heard the report of a revolver shot.
There was complete silence on the other side of the partition.
All this time he stood on the other side of the partition and prayed.
They moved the bed some feet away from the partition wall.
A similar one was let into the thick partition on the opposite side of the projectile, another in the top of the dome, and finally a fourth in the middle of the base.
Vronsky was staying in a roomy, clean, Finnish hut, divided into two by a partition.
Now, this back-room was immediately behind the bar, and some steps lower, so that any person connected with the house, undrawing a small curtain which concealed a single pane of glass fixed in the wall of the last-named apartment, about five feet from its flooring, could not only look down upon any guests in the back-room without any great hazard of being observed (the glass being in a dark angle of the wall, between which and a large upright beam the observer had to thrust himself), but could, by applying his ear to the partition, ascertain with tolerable distinctness, their subject of conversation.
Dodson & Fogg was a dark, mouldy, earthy-smelling room, with a high wainscotted partition to screen the clerks from the vulgar gaze, a couple of old wooden chairs, a very loud-ticking clock, an almanac, an umbrella-stand, a row of hat-pegs, and a few shelves, on which were deposited several ticketed bundles of dirty papers, some old deal boxes with paper labels, and sundry decayed stone ink bottles of various shapes and sizes.
The Scotia, divided into seven compartments by strong partitions, could brave with impunity any leak.
Then each sheet of the water, from the lowest to the highest, running off into escape tubes toward the top of the projectile, constituted a kind of spring; and the wooden disc, supplied with extremely powerful plugs, could not strike the lowest plate except after breaking successively the different partitions.