What are Court Referees / Partition Referees?
Simply stated, when the division of real or personal property is in dispute, a neutral third party may be appointed by a judge to resolve the matter. This neutral third party is known as a court referee or a partition referee.
The court-appointed court referee / partition referee may be appointed to cases involving disputes among family members, partnerships, or spouses. They may also be appointed over cases where the ownership of the property is unknown or unclear. The appointment of the court referee is up to the discretion of the judge in the case.
The judge must interpret the partition case as it pertains to CCP 873.010 (a) which states, “The court shall appoint a referee to divide or sell the property as ordered by the court.” And CCP 873.210 which allows that the referee be “appointed through an interlocutory judgment.” The judge decides when and if a court referee will be appointed.
The judge may appoint a court or partition referee to “perform any acts necessary to exercise the authority conferred by this title or by order of this court,” according to CCP 873.060.
The actions taken by the court referee / partition referee may include, but are not limited to:
- Signing Closing Paperwork,
- Signing Deeds,
- Signing Listing Agreements, and
- Signing a Purchase Contract;
- Employing an Attorney (with Court Approval); and
- Hiring Real Estate Agents.
The court-appointed court referee / court-appointed partition referee must oversee all processes involved in the partition of the property and perform their court-ordered duties.
Partition Actions: A More Detailed Definition
Typically, a partition action develops when a co-owner of real property wants to sell the property or their ownership interest in the property and the other co-owners do not. Co-owners of the property have the legal right to have the property divided and sold in order to capitalize their interest in the property. Traditionally, one of the co-owners will file a lawsuit asking the court to order the property be divided or sold in the partition action. The court appoints a partition referee to oversee the partition action.
Overseeing a partition action is one of the primary duties of a court referee / partition referee. As defined by the court, a partition action is a lawsuit filed by a co-owner of real or personal property requesting the court’s assistance with the division of the asset in question.
The origin of partition actions began when multiple owners of a single real estate holding asked the court for help dividing the property into equal shares that could be distributed among the parties.
Today, partition actions include, but are not limited to:
- Community Property,
- Joint Tenancy, and
- Tenancy in Common.
Real-life situations that frequently lead to partition actions include, but are not limited to:
- The inheritance of real and personal property: Oftentimes, family members disagree on what to do with the property they inherit.
- Divorce proceedings: Often, both spouses own real or personal property together.
- Business partners (or investors in the business) with shared ownership in real and/or personal property: Sometimes, there is a contractual agreement to waived the right to a partition.
A Good Court Referee / Partition Referee: Definition of Success
In order for a partition referee to be successful, they must be familiar with the partition process. It helps if they have been appointed over cases similar to yours. They must understand how to leverage the skills of others so your case can benefit from experienced brokers and other professionals to make sure that the particular asset being partitioned is partitioned fairly and within the parameters set forth in the court orders.
An experienced court referee will have created important relationships with the courts so they can successfully interface with all parties to the matter, including the appointing judge and other court representatives. They must also be able to use a proper business approach so that they can maximize the value of the property being partitioned.
Kevin Singer of Receivership Specialists is a seasoned professional with over 22 years of experience partitioning real and personal property and dealing with attorneys in various areas of law, the courts, lenders, accountants, and financial institutions.
For more information, use our Contact Form to contact Mr. Singer directly.