Parental rights is a blanket term for all the rights a parent has in regards to his or her children. While mother’s rights and father’s rights are often referred to separately, the law treats both as being under the same category of parental rights. Parental rights primarily cover custody rights and visitation rights, but can also involve other factors such as decisions on medical treatment. For this reason, the issue of parental rights can see considerable attention during a divorce.

Because parental rights are a broader category, parents who end up losing one right (such as child custody) are still entitled to their other rights (such as child visitation). Parental rights can only be lost entirely if there is judged to be a significant danger to the child’s well-being, or if both parents agree that one parent will relinquish all of his or her rights. Both parents agreeing is always a requirement for voluntarily giving up parental rights, because one effect of doing this is the removal of the requirement to pay child support.