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Partition

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.

Cross-references

Joint Tenancy.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

partition

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.

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

partition

a division of property, especially realty, among joint owners.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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