What Is a Partition Action?
A partition action is a lawsuit that can be filed to divide or sell a property by court order when it is owned by more than one person who have agreed to fair and equitable division of the property. A partition suit may be necessary to resolve a legal dispute regarding shared property, such as disagreements with how the property should be utilized or a co-owner wishing to sell his or her share.
What Does it Mean to Partition a Piece of Property?
A partition action is sometimes the only way to resolve a real estate, personal property or land dispute. Common examples are a couple that gets a divorce or siblings who have inherited property. The Supreme Court Rules of Civil Procedure 96.01 protects the rights of owners of interests in land in joint tenancy or tenancy in common to bring an action for partition.
To partition a piece of property means to physically divide the land among multiple owners, known as dividing the property “in kind.” If the land cannot be physically divided, the partition process may involve selling the land at public auction and distributing the proceeds equitably among co-owners. A division of property in kind is generally more feasible in rural areas.
In urban or city areas, a physical division may not be attainable. If a judge finds that an in kind partition cannot be done without great prejudice to those with interest in the property, the court will order the sale of the land at public auction instead. An order given for sale will include where and when the sale will be held and who will conduct the proceedings.
What Are Missouri’s Laws on Partition Actions?
Missouri law gives each co-owner of real estate the right to have the property sold and receive a portion of the proceeds through a partition action. Revisor of Missouri Section 528.705 states that in an action to partition real property, the court will determine whether the property in question belongs to heirs. If so, the property will be partitioned under the rules of 528.750, which emphasize uniformity of the law among states that enact substantially similar provisions.
Overview of the Partition Process in Missouri
The goal of a partition action is to provide a fair and equitable resolution to a property dispute that occurs among multiple co-owners. A successful partition action will allow the co-owners to protect their interests in the property and move forward. While each case is unique, the general partition process in Missouri involves:
- Filing a partition action: one or more co-owners will file a petition in the Circuit Court of the county where the property is located to initiate a partition action. The petition will detail whether the party requests physical division of the property or sale.
- Evaluating the case: the Circuit Court will evaluate the petition and circumstances to determine whether a partition in kind is appropriate and can be done without prejudice to any of the parties. If not, the court will order the sale of the property.
- Appointing commissioners: if a sale of the land at auction is ordered by the court, three commissioners will be appointed to manage the sale and distribute the proceeds among the co-owners based on their respective interests in the property.
The specific legal procedures and the outcome of a partition action will vary based on the circumstances of the case. It is recommended that the parties involved in a partition action in Missouri seek advice and representation from a St. Louis real estate lawyer to protect their legal rights throughout the partition process.