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Divorce and Verifications

Before filing a complaint for absolute divorce, your attorney will request that you sign a Verification stating that all the claims and allegations contained in the complaint are accurate and true. This is not just to ensure that there is accuracy in the pleadings and that there are no mistakes. It is actually a requirement and essential part of the complaint for divorce. Put another way, without verification, the complaint will be dismissed. Our statutes[1] require that a verification be signed in front of a notary public or officer of the court.

In one recent case,[2] a plaintiff in a divorce action had knowingly made false statements in his complaint for divorce, despite signing a verification stating otherwise. One claim that he falsely propelled was that he and the defendant had been living separate and apart since June 15, 2012. Testimony at an eventual hearing on the defendant’s Rule 60 motion would reveal that the parties did not physically separate until April 16, 2018.

While the requirement for one-year separation is mandatory in divorce cases in North Carolina and was ultimately the reason why the divorce judgment was voided, this case demonstrates the importance of the verification. The opinion cites law that the defective verification is cause for dismissal of the action. Whether or not that impacts subject matter jurisdiction is not made clear by this opinion (which ultimately rested on the lack of one-year separation). But the ramifications could potentially be massive if defective verifications could lead to the courts’ lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Especially since a challenge on the court’s subject matter jurisdiction can be brought at any time, and if true would invalidate the judgment. While this opinion contextually indicates that the separation requirement being the ultimate fact that led to the deprivation of jurisdiction, it still leaves unanswered if the lack of a valid verification itself could do the same. And if so just how bad must the defect be?

Regardless of the answer to that hypothetical question, this is why the verification is such an integral and important part of the divorce process. Divorce complaints are relatively simple and straightforward but should nonetheless be taken seriously. Read the complaint and make sure everything is accurate and true.

[1] N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1-148 (2021)
[2] Kumaga v. Kumaga, 2022-NCCOA-233 (2022) (unpublished).