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Home / Opinion Digests / Domestic Relations / Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Civil Practice – Subject Matter Jurisdiction – Magistrate’s Signature – Presumption of Regularity

Domestic Relations – Parent & Child – Termination of Parental Rights – Civil Practice – Subject Matter Jurisdiction – Magistrate’s Signature – Presumption of Regularity

In re N.T. (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-16-16, 7 pp.) (Barbara Jackson, J.) Appealed from Wake County District Court (Monica Bousman, J.) On discretionary review from the Court of Appeals. N.C. S. Ct.

Holding: A juvenile petition must be verified before a person who has the authority to administer oaths. In this case, the signature of the person before whom the petition was verified is illegible, and nothing in the record identifies that person’s name or title. Nevertheless, in light of the presumption of regularity, respondent has failed to meet his burden of showing that the petition was not properly verified.

We reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision, which vacated the trial court order terminating respondent’s parental rights.

Although the question of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time, where the trial court has acted in a matter, generally there is a presumption that a public official in the performance of an official duty acts in accordance with the law and the authority conferred upon him. The burden is upon the contesting party to overcome this presumption.

Here, the juvenile petition contains a verification that appears facially valid— it is signed by an authorized representative of the director of Wake County Human Services who “vouches” for the truth of the allegations in the petition, and another signature appears in a space clearly reserved for “Signature of Person Authorized to Administer Oaths.” By signing in a space with such a conspicuous designation, the person who did so necessarily represented that he or she possessed such authority, and there is nothing in the record indicating that this person lacked the authority he or she claimed to possess. Respondent never submitted any evidence, or even any specific allegations, tending to overcome the presumption of regularity.

Considering only the materials in the record and the presumption of regularity that attaches to the trial court’s decision to exercise jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals had no basis to conclude that the petition was not properly verified.

Reversed.


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