Partition actions divide a piece of property between multiple people with ownership interests. The division happens one of two ways: The court decides on a physical division of the property (partition in kind), or the property is sold, and the proceeds divided between the owners (partition by sale).

For those who co-own property in New York, there are three essential things to know about partition actions:

Anyone with an ownership interest can bring the partition action

It is easy to envision a partition action playing out when two people jointly own the same piece of property. However, many people do not realize that someone with a future interest in the property can bring such an action as well. For example, if Jim’s will gives a piece of property to his son, the son can bring a partition action today – even though he does not yet own the property.

A partition action divides property according to the type of ownership

How a partition action divides a piece of property depends on what kind of ownership, or “tenancy,” the owners have. Those who own the property as joint tenants must divide the property equally. Tenants in common must divide it according to their ownership interests.

Partitions can be voluntary or involuntary

Ideally, joint owners come to an agreement on their own to divide a piece of property. But, one owner can bring a partition action to the courts on their own.

Partition actions can be messy, and with valuable property on the line it is best to consult with a professional. An experienced real estate attorney can help you determine how to begin, or oppose, a partition action.