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How Long Does a Partition Action Take?

Martinez Law Office, Inc March 25, 2024

The decision to take legal action to resolve a disagreement over jointly-owned property is not one to be made lightly. A partition action, while a practical recourse for resolving disputes, carries with it a timeline that may not be straightforward. Potential petitioners are left wondering, "How long before the property is divided or sold?"

Although the timeline may vary depending on the different factors surrounding the case, it's possible to get a general timeline of a partition action, discussing the various factors that influence its duration, and what parties can realistically expect.

If you're facing a property dispute and need assistance with a partition action, reach out to me for approachable and collaborative legal representation. My firm, Martinez Law Office, Inc., proudly serves clients throughout Santa Clara and Southern California, including Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. 

Timeline of a Partition Action 

The timeline of a partition action will vary and depends on the specifics of each case. Generally, from the pre-filing stage to the resolution phase, the process can take as little as several months to several years. The pre-filing preparations may take a few weeks to months, depending on the details and the co-owners' willingness to negotiate.

Once filed, the court process—which includes the service of process, the discovery phase, and potential settlement negotiations or a trial—can extend the timeline significantly, often taking anywhere from several months to over a year.

Post-filing procedures, including the property's division or sale and the final distribution of proceeds, can add several more months to the overall duration.

Ultimately, while an uncontested partition action might be resolved within a year, contested cases or those involving multiple owners can extend well beyond that timeframe. 

How to Expedite a Partition Action 

While the timeline of a partition action can vary significantly, there are several strategies that parties and their attorneys can employ to expedite the process: 

  • Early Negotiation and Mediation: Engaging in negotiations or mediation at an early stage can help the parties reach an agreement without the need for extensive litigation, thereby shortening the timeline. 

  • Effective Communication: Open and effective communication between the co-owners and their attorneys can identify issues early and resolve them more quickly, possibly preventing delays. 

  • Complete and Accurate Documentation: Ensuring that all documentation related to the property is complete, accurate, and readily available can reduce the time spent in the discovery phase and avoid delays caused by missing or incorrect information. 

  • Utilization of Summary Judgment: If the facts of the case are clear and undisputed, moving for a summary judgment can significantly reduce the time required for the trial phase as it may eliminate the need for a trial altogether. 

  • Selection of an Experienced Attorney: Working with a real estate attorney experienced in partition actions can streamline the process. I can anticipate potential issues, efficiently manage the case, and negotiate effectively on your behalf. 

By focusing on these strategies, the parties involved in a partition action can work toward a more efficient resolution, potentially reducing the overall duration of the process. 

Understanding the Partition Action Process 

A partition action is a legal remedy used when co-owners of a property cannot agree on its management or disposition. It can be time-consuming, depending on various factors such as the nature of the property, the number of co-owners, and the extent of disagreement among them.  

The Pre-Filing Stage 

Before a partition action is filed, there's a lot of groundwork to be done. This includes gathering all relevant documentation, performing a title search, and attempting to negotiate a resolution with the co-owners. This pre-filing stage can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. 

The Filing Process 

Once the groundwork has been laid, filing for a partition action marks the next step in resolving property disputes among co-owners. The filing process itself involves several key steps:

  • Preparation of the Complaint: I can assist you in drafting a legal complaint, which outlines the nature of the property dispute, the relationship between the co-owners, and the desired outcome of the partition action.  

  • Filing the Complaint With the Court: The completed complaint is filed in the appropriate court. The jurisdiction is typically determined by the property location. 

  • Service of Process: After the complaint is filed, the co-owners (now defendants in the action) must be officially notified through a process known as "service of process." This ensures all parties are aware of the legal proceedings and have a chance to respond. 

  • Answer to the Complaint: The defendants have a specific period, usually between 20 to 30 days, to respond to the complaint. They can either agree with the partition, dispute the claims, or assert their own claims against the plaintiff or other co-owners. 

  • Discovery Phase: This phase involves the exchange of information and documentation relevant to the dispute between the parties. It may include interrogatories, depositions, and requests for production of documents. 

  • Motion for Summary Judgment or Settlement Negotiations: If the facts are undisputed, either party may move for a summary judgment to expedite the case. Alternatively, or concurrently, parties can engage in settlement negotiations to resolve the dispute without a trial. 

  • Trial: If no settlement is reached and a summary judgment is not granted, the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, both sides present their evidence and arguments, after which the judge or jury makes a decision. 

Each of these steps adds to the timeline of the partition action, contributing to the overall duration from filing to resolution. 

Post-Filing Procedures 

After the trial phase in a partition action, several post-filing procedures come into play, which significantly impact the timeframe for fully resolving the case. These procedures include:  

  • Judgment and Order for Partition: Upon reaching a decision, the court will issue a judgment and, if the partition is granted, an order outlining the method of partition—whether by division, sale, or otherwise.  

  • Appointment of a Referee: In many cases, the court will appoint a referee to oversee the actual partition process. This individual is responsible for dividing the property physically or organizing its sale, depending on the court's order. 

  • Division or Sale of the Property: If the property can be equitably divided, the referee will proceed with the division among the co-owners according to the court’s directives. If the division is not feasible, the referee will arrange for the property's sale. This process includes valuing the property, marketing it, and conducting the sale, often at public auction. 

  • Distribution of Proceeds: Following the sale, the proceeds are distributed among the co-owners, reflecting their respective shares as determined by the court. This process may also involve settling any claims or liens against the property to ensure a clear title for the new owner. 

  • Final Accounting and Discharge of the Referee: After completing the division or sale, the referee provides the court with a detailed accounting of their actions and the expenses incurred during the process. Upon approval by the court, the referee is discharged. 

  • Final Order: The case concludes with the court issuing a final order, formally ending the partition action and confirming the distribution of the property or the proceeds from its sale.  

The duration of these post-filing procedures can vary widely depending on the property's nature, the sale's complexity, and the efficiency of the appointed referee. This phase may take several months to over a year, completing the entire partition action process. 

Resolution Phase 

The resolution phase involves either a settlement agreement or a trial. If a settlement is reached, the case can be resolved quickly. However, if the case goes to trial, it can take a year or more for a final decision. 

Understand Your Next Steps 

Facing the timeline of a partition action can feel overwhelming for co-owners facing property disputes. However, understanding the process—from pre-filing preparations through trial and post-filing procedures—can offer invaluable insights into managing expectations and strategizing for a timely resolution. Remember, while some aspects of the timeline are beyond control, early negotiation, proper documentation, and the guidance of an experienced attorney can significantly influence the speed and outcome of your partition action. Contact me at Martinez Law Office, Inc. in Laguna Hills, California, as soon as possible.