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Under Fla. Stat. ch. 39.467, a trial court is authorized to terminate a natural parent's rights only if the trial court finds by clear and convincing evidence that termination is in the manifest best interests of the parent's child and that the parent has abandoned, abused, or neglected the child. A finding that termination is in the manifest best interests of the child is by itself legally insufficient to support a judgment terminating parental rights.
The foster parents filed a petition for adoption of a minor child. The trial court granted the adoption petition and then terminated the appellant mother's parental rights based upon findings of abandonment and neglect. The appellant mother sought review of the judgment.
The court affirmed the order that terminated appellant's parental rights because the applicable burden of proof in all termination of parental rights proceedings was clear and convincing evidence. The record supported the trial court's findings of clear and convincing evidence of abandonment. However, the court held that the order of adoption should not have been entered before a written order terminating parental rights was filed, and it was clear that such order would not be affected by rehearing or appeal. Accordingly, the court reversed the order that granted the adoption petition.