Imagine the following situation: a couple gets engaged, but before the wedding, decides to buy a house to live in together, planning to live in the house before the marriage and after. Things go well for a time, but then the relationship falls apart and the engagement is off. Now the couple is left with the issue of what happens with the house. The answer lies with a petition to partition.

At the outset, it is important to remember that if the marriage had gone through and the couples were divorcing instead of breaking off an engagement, the fate of the house would be decided by the Family Court in the divorce. Second, it is important to remember that any mortgages or other liens against the property will also need to be addressed in dividing the property.

Petitions to partition can “divide” a piece of property between those with ownership rights. Ownership rights can be explicit, such as in a joint ownership of property, or they may be implied, which can be based on various factors under each state’s partition laws. Generally, they involve financial contributions, work performed on the home to improve it, and various other actions that maintain and preserve the value of a home.

A court may divide a property following a successful petition to partition by forcing a sale or by awarding ownership rights to the petitioner. In the event of a forced sale, the Court will also decide the percentage of the proceeds to be awarded to each party. While the default may be a 50/50 split, the Court may adjust these numbers based on unequal money the parties put into the property, labor one party put into the property, and so on.

Let’s expand on the situation above. Say for the sake of discussion that the deed is in the name of only one of the couple, because the other had poor credit and would not be approved for the mortgage. Is this person out of luck because they were not on the deed? Not necessarily. In this situation the Court can still find ownership based on principles of equity, or fairness. Naturally, because fairness encompasses so many different things, there are just as many different arguments to be made for an equity-based petition to partition.

If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you need to partition property, whether from a family member, significant other, or business partner, the attorneys in the Civil Litigation Department at Parnell, Michels & McKay are ready to meet with you. Please contact our team of experienced attorneys today to see if you have a partition claim.

We have 2 office locations: 25 Nashua Rd., Suite C5, Londonderry, NH 03053. Phone number is (603) 434-6331. Our 2nd office is at 137 Main St., P.O Box 669, N. Woodstock, NH 03262. Phone number is (603) 745-8600.