In re N.T., 368 N.C. 705 (2016)


  • Procedural  History/Facts:
    • 2012: The county department files a neglect petition that is signed by an authorized representative of the director. In the verification section after “signature of person authorized to administer oaths,” an illegible signature following the letter “C” appears. The section for “title” is left blank. Child is adjudicated neglected and placed in the custody of the county department.
    • 2013: The county department files a motion to terminate parental rights (TPR).
    • 2014: The TPR is granted and respondent mother appeals based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction arguing the neglect petition was not properly verified as required by statute.
    • 2015: The NC Court of Appeals vacates the TPR, and the N.C. Supreme Court grants petition for discretionary review.
  • Although subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, there is a presumption that a court has jurisdiction when it acts on a matter. The respondent, who is raising subject matter jurisdiction, has the burden of proving there is no jurisdiction.
  • Verification is addressed by G.S. 1A-1, Rule 11(b) and G.S. 1-148. Rule 11 requires an affidavit where the person verifies that the contents of the pleading are to his or her knowledge true or upon information and belief are believed to be true. G.S. 1-148 authorizes a judge, magistrate, clerk of court, notary public, or any officer competent to acknowledge deeds to verify a pleading.  A public official acting in his or her official duty is presumed to act in accordance with the law, and the contesting party has the burden of overcoming the presumption.
  • Respondent mother did not show that the petition, which appeared to be facially valid, was not verified before a person who was authorized to administer oaths. There was no evidence or allegations to overcome the presumption that the person who signed as “the person authorized to administer oaths” did not act in his or her official capacity.


Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Verification of Petition
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