I'm not a lawyer. I have family that are though and they will likely laugh at the idea that I'm exploring a very complicated legal issue, but it's a common question that I've done some research into. If there's a fence between 2 neighbors in Missouri, who owns it? Complicated only begins to describe the answers I've found.

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Let me restate that "I'm not a lawyer" fact. If you have any question or dispute with your neighbor, talk to a real lawyer. I saw this topic come up online and found some very detailed answers that might help you at least understand some general principles about fences in Missouri.

There are two types of fence law in Missouri. There is what is known as the "General" fence law and the "Local Option". Many counties in our area have chosen the "local" option as it strengthens the rights of livestock owners. That includes Shelby, Scotland, Schuyler and Macon counties in our part of Missouri, but there are others also. The University of Missouri Extension website has an excellent breakdown of what the fence laws mean.

What are the differences between the "General Rule" and the "Local Option"?

Find Law nails this (no fence pun intended) with the following notes:

Local Option:
Law demands who must build and maintain a fence
There's no breakdown of which part of a fence is each neighbor's responsibility
You don't have to own livestock for this fence law to be enforced

General Rule:
You are not required to pay for a fence you don't want in full or in part
If you have livestock, you have to build a fence
The county gets to decide what legally determines what a fence is

But, wait. There's more What if 2 neighbors can't agree where to put a fence? The University of Missouri website says that it was tradition that a "devil's lane" would result with a 10 foot gap between where each neighbor would place their fence. That presents legal jeopardy in the future though as Mizzou says "it can lead to adverse possession if one of the landowners claims the lane". (*face palm*)

But, who owns the fence?

There is not just one answer. The general rule is if you're the only neighbor with livestock, you are the sole owner of the fence. As I stated earlier, most of the rural counties in Missouri have their own local options and laws.

If this article doesn't convince you to just consult a lawyer if you have fence questions, nothing will. My brain hurts after quite literally hours of research. My family who are lawyers now have even more respect from me than they already had. Their job is obviously very hard.

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