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Porter v. Porter

    Brief Fact Summary.

    After Denis and Mary Jane Porter (Defendant) divorced, Defendant was granted sole possession of the home they owned as joint tenants. When Denis died, his new wife, Martha Porter (Plaintiff) sued for partition, arguing that the divorce had dissolved the joint tenancy and established a tenancy in common.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When a court grants possession of property owned as joint tenants to one party in a divorce decree, the joint tenancy and right of survivorship remain.

    Facts.

    Denis Porter and Defendant owned a home in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. When the couple divorced, the court awarded Defendant sole possession of the land. Denis Porter then married Plaintiff and later died. Plaintiff sued, arguing that the court order awarding Defendant possession of the land destroyed the joint tenancy and established a tenancy in common. Plaintiff sought partition. The trial court found for Plaintiff and declared the property a tenancy in common, with each owning an undivided half interest. Defendant appealed.

    Issue.

    When a court grants possession of property owned as joint tenants to one party in a divorce, does this order dissolve the joint tenancy?

    Held.

    (Almon, J.) No. When a court grants possession of property owned as joint tenants to one party in a divorce decree, the joint tenancy and right of survivorship remain. The unity of possession required for a joint tenancy was not broken because the court retains jurisdiction over the property and could determine possession differently were circumstances to change. The joint tenancy was not terminated and Defendant became the sole owner of the property after Denis Porter’s death. Reversed and remanded.

    Discussion.

    Four unities are required to establish a joint tenancy. They are the unities of possession, time, title, and interest. If any of these unities is destroyed, so is joint ownership.


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