As previously discussed in our blog post regarding the Nuts and Bolts of a Petition to Partition, a partition proceeding is a legal action to dispose of jointly held property "to balance the rights and equities of the parties concerning the property at issue." Gonzales v. Pierce-Williams, 68 Mass. App. Ct. 785, 787 (2007), quoting Moat v. Ducharme, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 749, 751 (1990). In order to balance the equities of the parties, the court has wide latitude, in equity, to determine how the proceeds from a partition sale the partition should be distributed. See G. L. c. 241, § 25.
A petition to partition initiates a legal proceeding, which allows a co-owner of real property to dispose of the same by physical division or forcing a sale. Petitions to partition are governed by G.L. c. 241. Each co-owner of property has the "'equal right of entry, occupation and enjoyment'". Hershman-Tcherepnin v. Tcherepnin, 452 Mass. 77, 90 (2008), quoting Muskeget Island Club v. Prior, 228 Mass. 95, 96 (1917). However, if, for whatever reason, a co-owner no longer wishes to hold title to the property with his or her other co-owners, then that individual has an absolute right to file a petition to partition to dispose of the co-owned property. See Hershman-Tcherepnin, supra at 92. Parties can, however, enter a contract that may limit or restrain their rights to partition co-owned property, if the restraint is for a reasonable period of time. See id. at 93.