Acquiescence in Michigan
Acquiescence is a legal doctrine which a court may apply to resolve a boundary dispute. At its core, as you might expect from the definition of acquiescence, applying acquiescence means the court will enforce a boundary line that neighboring landowners have agreed to, even though that boundary line is not the legal boundary between the properties.
It is useful to compare acquiescence to adverse possession. In very general terms, you can think of acquiescence as adverse possession without the required element of adversity (open, visible, notorious). Acquiescence is for situations where the parties, by oral agreement or practice, have established a different boundary line between their properties.
There are three general situations where courts will use acquiescence to establish a new boundary line. One is where neighboring owners had a bona fide controversy over the property line and came to an agreement on where the boundary should be. In this situation, the passage of time between the resolution (or agreed-upon boundary) and the lawsuit does not have to be fifteen years. The second situation is where neighbors have agreed to a boundary and the fifteen-year prescriptive period (the same as adverse possession) has passed. Third, and sometimes related to the second situation, is when both parties have relied upon an erroneous survey line (or other attempt at delineating the boundary). Note, though, that the doctrine of acquiescence is found in the common law, and it may be applied in cases that do not neatly fall into a specific category.
An important point about acquiescence is the legal standard which the plaintiff must prove. In most civil cases the plaintiff needs to show that the evidence is in her favor by a preponderance of evidence—often judges will explain this by saying it is just a bit more than 50% in the plaintiff’s favor. This is the standard for acquiescence. This is an important point because the standard for adverse possession is not typical—instead, the plaintiff must show the evidence is “clearly and cogently” in her favor to gain property by adverse possession, a higher standard. Thus, where acquiescence is a possible theory, it should be favored over adverse possession because it is easier to prove (though, in reality, most plaintiffs will plead both theories as alternative forms of relief).
If you are facing a situation involving acquiescence in northern Michigan, please feel free to call 231 486 4537 or email me.