As a parent, you have certain parental rights. You can raise your child how you want, as long as it is within the boundaries of established laws. Your rights allow you to make decisions for the child regarding religion, medical treatment, education and more. A parent also has legal responsibilities to ensure the well-being of the child. Parental rights are not always permanent. You can choose to have them terminated, or a court or judge can do it on your behalf. This is the primary difference between voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Involuntary termination occurs when a court or judge makes the final decision to terminate a person’s parental rights. It is not a quick process. Some specific rules and procedures must be followed before rights are terminated in this way. There are several reasons the court may terminate a person’s parental rights. A few of the most common reasons include:

  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse.
  • Inability to care for the child.
  • Neglect.
  • Abandonment.
  • Child abuse.
  • A Felony conviction of a crime against children.

Typically, the child leaves the parental home to stay with relatives or enters the foster care system. The parents have time to correct the circumstances deemed harmful to the child. If the parents complete all the requirements, the state will return the child to the parents. If the parents do not comply, their parental rights may be terminated, at which point the child will become available for adoption.

Voluntary Termination of Parental Rights

Voluntary termination occurs when a parent willingly relinquishes parental rights and responsibilities. Birth parents do this during the adoption process when they terminate their rights and the adoptive parents receive those rights. A parent can choose to relinquish their rights at any time in the child’s life.

Once a biological parent voluntarily relinquishes their rights and the child has been adopted, it is not possible to reverse the decision. The adoptive parents have parental rights and all the responsibilities of caring for the child.

Having Choices

The biggest difference between these two types of termination is the ability to make choices. When a parent chooses adoption and voluntarily relinquishes their parental rights, they can decide who adopts the child and what type of adoption they wish to have. In an open adoption, the biological parents can stay in contact with the adoptive family and child. When rights are involuntarily terminated, the biological parents have little or no control over where the child is placed. They may have no ability to see or speak with the child in the future.

Choosing Adoption

As you can see, there are vast differences between voluntary and involuntary termination of parental rights. If you are thinking about placing your child for adoption, call or text us at 865-392-6261. Our Tennessee licensed adoption professionals are available 24/7 to answer your questions. Communication with us is completely confidential, and you are under no obligation to choose adoption.


Author: Destiny Adoption Services

Destiny Adoption Services is proud to support and guide birth parents and adoptive families on the journey of adoption. We’re a state licensed nonprofit adoption agency with four decades of adoption experience, and our professional team of experts includes moms, adoptive moms and birth mothers who provide compassion combined with trusted resources and skills.