Convenience fence or boundary fence?

This often-made dispute was resolved by the Wyoming Supreme Court at S-22-0183 over a fence dividing two neighbors, Lyman to the south and Childs to the north. 

The two properties are mountainous, heavily forested and primarily used for ranching and recreation.  The fence in dispute was erected in the 1950's by the Lyman family and has not moved since it was first observed in the 1905's.  It is a "sheep-tight" fence that consisted of mesh write on the bottom and two barbed wires on the top.  The fence did not follow the exact deed boundary line of the properties but instead meandered through forested areas.  The Lymans asserted the fence was built to be a boundary and that they had adversely possessed it. 

There is a requirement for actual notice to Childs of the Lyman's hostile use of the land.  This notice was not made. 

Even though the Lymans use of the property was actual, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile and continuous, Childs established that the dividing fence was one of convenience and therefore the use is permissive. 

A fence kept for convenience does not affect the true boundary between land.  In determining a fence of convenience these are the nonexclusive factors: 

  • the physical appearance of the fence; 
  • whether the fence meanders or runs in a straight line; 
  • whether the fence avoid obstacles and natural barriers; 
  • whether trees, bushes or natural objects are used as fencing material; 
  • whether there was an obvious lack of intent to follow platted or government description property lines; 
  •  changes in elevation on the deeded boundary compared to the fence line; 
  • soil conditions or rockiness of the deeded boundary compared to the fence line; 
  • ease of labor or cost of fencing the deeded boundary compared to the fence line; 
  • the type of land the fence is dividing. 

In this case, the physical appearance of the fence demonstrated that it could not have been constructed as a boundary fence.  The fence was three wires meandering between trees, bushes and fence posts in an irregular fashion.  It appears that someone walked in the east-west direction stringing barbwire from tree to tree placing fence posts when trees or bushes were not available.  The irregular course of the fence indicated that it was not constructed on a section line, a quarter section line, or any other line of a U.S. governmental subdivision parcel.  The fence was not in a straight line.  

The fence was found to be a fence of convenience. 

Location of a fence often comes up when you purchase your property.  A real property law saying of mine is "fences are fickle".  If you have a question about your fence, please call 307.200.1914.  Thank you.