Proposed Final Order-Trial Court’s adoption of a proposed final judgment terminating parental rights is not per se reversible; rather, reversal is required only where the circumstances create an appearance that the judgment does not reflect the judge’s independent decision-making.

D.R. v. Department of Children and Families, — So.3d —- (2018), 44 Fla. L. Weekly D253

Department submitted a proposed order at the beginning of TPR trial. After the trial ended, the court adopted the proposed order in full, but added approximately one page of additional findings. Mother appealed, arguing the court failed to conduct an independent analysis of the facts and law in adopting the order.

The First DCA held that the trial court’s adoption of the proposed order did not warrant reversal in this case, specifically noting the inclusion of substantive changes by the trial judge, indicating the court exercised independent judgment based on the evidence presented at the trial. Further, the DCA noted that further review of additional factors was precluded because of deficiencies in the record. Even in a termination of parental rights proceeding, the lack of a transcript mandates affirmance unless fundamental error appears on the face of the order.

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