I live in Maricopa County, Arizona and own a property with my ex-girlfriend. I put a significant amount more money into the property in terms of improvement and payments for things like the mortgage and taxes. She wants to divide any sale 50/50 and will not consider any other division. What options do I have? Mediation? Arbitration? File a Petition for Partition? What type of lawyers would I need for these actions? How much will it cost? How long will it take? I've read a Mediation could cost around $200--is that true? I've heard a Petition for Partition could cost between 7000-10000 for each party and drag on for 2 years. How accurate is that? Please help...
Documentation will be key to your claim. You have listed many good questions. Partitions are a legal action that could take time to process in the courts, however it may be the best action. Mediators, while good, cannot provide a binding decision. Arbitrators can provide a binding decision, but unless you have a agreed previously, then your ex girlfriend may not be willing to participate unless the Arbitration is court ordered. A key question will be what is the disposition of your ex-girlfriend? Also what is the value of the property? Please contact an attorney who practices in real estate law to walk you though the specific facts of your case.
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The key to this claim is proper documentation. Arizona case law explains that the parties' respective ownership interest, in absence of a co-habitation agreement, is based on the reasonable expectations of the parties. Your job (with the help of a lawyer) is to show that you are entitled to more than 50% ownership based on the improvements you made, the reimbursements in which you are entitled, and so on. The strategy you employ to get to your proposed goal (partition lawsuit, mediation, and so on) is a long discussion is better suited for an initial consultation with a real estate attorney.
This is not something I would recommend that you try to do by yourself. Good luck. David Degnan, Esq.
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Good answers from my colleagues, but I would add the following. Before seeking legal counsel, quantify your claim. Meaning, how much more did you invest, compared to your joint tenant? That's the key to everything. Knowing the number will help you and an advisor determine whether it's worth the emotional and financial costs of fighting.
I overwhelming favor mediated solutions over arbitration. Mediations are confidential, voluntary and parties control outcomes. Arbitrations are expensive-just private trials. And you lose control, which is also the biggest problem with going to court.
The core problem with your situation is likely the past relationship. Emotions run high. A mediated or negotiated approach that integrates that point is far more likely to reach a positive resolution, financially, emotionally and even spiritually. There are outstanding mediation resources available in the Phoenix Metro area.
Be prepared to give up some of your increased investment in order to move on quickly, with a minimum of collateral damage. Keep an open mind. Don't make it about "principles" or "justice." Doing so usually creates hangovers, not peace.
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