Filial Support Laws in the Modern Era: Domestic and International Comparison of Enforcement Practices for Laws Requiring Adult Children to Support Indigent Parents

01 Jan 2013

Family responsibility and support laws have a long but mixed history. When first enacted, policy makers used such laws to declare an official policy that family members should support each other, rather than draw upon public resources. This article tracks modern developments with filial support laws that purport to obligate adult children to financially assist their parents, if indigent or needy. The author diagrams filial support laws that have survived in the 21st Century and compares core components in the United States (including Puerto Rico) and post-Soviet Union Ukraine. While the laws are often similar in wording and declared intent, this article demonstrates that enforcement practices are quite different among the two countries, even as both countries struggle with aging populations and recession. In addition, the author analyzes a potentially disturbing trend emerging in at least two U.S. states, most significantly Pennsylvania, where filial support laws are now a primary collection tool for nursing homes, with decisions against adult children running to thousands of dollars in retroactive “support.” The article closes with concerns for policy makers in any state or country considering filial support as an alternative or supplement to public funding for long-term care or health care for the elderly.