It’s not uncommon for unmarried couples to purchase a home together. However, when couples decide to terminate their relationship up and only one party wants to sell the property, it may be necessary to initiate a legal proceeding to resolve the equitable and financial interests in the property.

When one party refuses to sell, the party wanting to opt-out of ownership can file a Petition to Partition Real Property. This action begins the legal proceeding to force the sale, or refinance, of the property, provided it is legally owned by both parties. In other words, both parties names are on the deed, as Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common.

The division of a single-family residence, in such a manner that both parties can continue to use the property is impractical, therefore, the court will order the sale or refinance of the property. The property can be sold through a public auction, a private sale via a market listing, or a buy-out by the other owner. A court-appointed commissioner will oversee the sale of the property, if necessary. Generally, the Court will give the opportunity to one of the parties to buy out the others equitable interest, so long as they can prove a present ability to do so, and the other party agrees to this. In situations where both parties want the home, the Court generally will not choose sides, but will simply order the sale.

The Courts involvement is not to decide which party is better suited to keep the property, but only to make certain that one, or both parties are not denied their economic interest in the same. So if one person can guarantee the other  receives their economic interest,  then the Court probably will not direct a sale.

No matter which method of selling the property is used, the court is required to seek the highest possible return at current fair market value. Proceeds, unlike in divorce, will not be divided equally(50/50)  , but equitably. This means the court will consider each person’s economic contributions to the purchase, retention and increase in the value of the asset. If one party can prove they made a greater contribution towards the maintenance, upkeep, and fees associated with the property, they will probably receive more of the value.

In cases where the property can be divided, the court may divide the property and split the ownership.

An good attorney can facilitate negotiations between you and the property’s co-owner to help maximize your economic rights. Contact our office today to discuss your options, or to file a Petition to Partition.