Filial responsibility estranged parent: Many elderly parents need care for both physical and mental wellbeing, leading some states to require adult children of these elderly parents to pay the associated medical and long-term care bills.
Filial Responsibility and Estranged Parent Laws
Academic literature remains divided as to whether these laws are appropriate. Some scholars, such as English, advocate that there exists an implied reciprocal obligation between adult children and elderly parents; Wicclair maintains that gratitude instead of debt should serve as the basis of filial obligations.
The History of Filial Responsibility
Filial responsibility refers to a moral duty owed by adult children of their parents even in situations when they no longer can support themselves. Not only has this been practiced since ancient times; today it forms the basis of modern law in several countries including China where its implementation has been written into their constitution.
Also read: “The Signs CPS Looks For When They Visit.”
Filial obligation is an intricate concept with various arguments supporting its concept being put forth to support it. Some scholars suggest that filial obligation stems from reciprocity but this has been challenged by others who assert that in an adult-child relationship the notion of debt should not exist. Meanwhile, other scholars claim it’s founded in loyalty and affection but this fails to take into account that filial responsibility should not be an exclusive relationship.
Feelings of friendship may impact how much and type of financial support adult children give their parents. Additionally, several factors affect filial piety such as age of the child, number of siblings and birth order as well as nature of previous family relationships (recalled negative family interactions may disincline children from providing emotional or financial assistance to their parents (Litwin 1994). Finally, state programs like Medicare or Medicaid may take some of the burden for long-term care or nursing home fees away from families but this doesn’t always happen (Litwin 1994).
The Legal Ramifications of Adult Child-Parent Estrangement
Separation may cause emotional pain, as well as legal consequences. In certain states, an adult child may be held financially accountable for unpaid bills of his or her parents from long-term care facilities; many facilities seek reimbursement from adult children or other family members in this instance.
Although filial responsibility norms are widespread, not everyone agrees on their nature and extent. Some researchers contend that filial obligation is heavily culturally constructed, depending on one’s family background; others see filial obligation as a moral duty to care for one’s aging parents (Donorfio & Sheehan 2001).
Parent-child estrangement can result from many different sources; abuse, mental illness, alcoholism or a failure of communication being some of the more likely sources. Whatever its origins may be, however, the end result can be an often difficult and long-lasting family rift that makes healing almost impossible.
Decisions regarding cutting off contact ultimately lie with each individual, as their personal stories dictate it. A relationship therapist can help identify potential sources of estrangement and suggest methods for healing it; until then, you can take some measures to prepare for and deal with family conflicts should one arise.
The Laws of Filial Responsibility in the United States
Filial Responsibility laws exist in 30 US states and place an obligation upon adult children of impoverished parents to financially assist their impoverished relatives. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities commonly use these laws as leverage against unpaid bills from patients residing there; however, enforcement rarely occurs.
No one knows who legally is responsible for providing assistance for an elderly parent living with other relatives, such as spouses or the children of siblings, such as spouses. Gender may play a factor when fulfilling filial responsibilities – research indicates that daughters more often take on caregiving responsibilities (Lee, Dwyer & Coward 1993; Matthews 1995).
Filial responsibility laws exist in some states, yet most families do not assume financial responsibility for the care of their parents without having enough savings themselves to cover such costs. Therefore, it’s advisable to meet with both a financial advisor and estate planning attorney to assess how best to reduce risks under filial responsibility statutes.
Federal law prevents states from suing family members over the cost of care for parents receiving Medicaid, thus helping siblings avoid being drawn into court over financial disagreements over care for a relative.
The Laws of Filial Responsibility in Canada
Filial responsibility laws remain in force across Canada with the exception of Alberta and British Columbia, drawing inspiration from English “Poor Laws.” Under these statutes, children are obliged to support elderly parents or grandparents who need financial help due to illness or financial difficulty; although courts rarely enforce them.
Researchers have noted how cultural differences impact norms of filial responsibility. Older African Americans in particular appear to expect their children to provide more than white counterparts do, as do individuals with multiple daughters in a family system (Hamon & Blieszner 1990; Novero Blust & Scheidt 1988). Furthermore, research suggests that number of siblings can influence expectations; people who have more sisters tend to share in caring responsibilities of mothers (Hamon & Blieszner 1990; Novero Blust & Scheidt 1988).
No matter their culture differences, most states have filial responsibility laws in place that vary from state to state, yet allow courts to impose civil and criminal penalties against adult children who neglect to provide for their aging parents.
Instead of relying on filial duty laws, governments should create comprehensive government policies that meet all of the needs of their senior citizens. Shifting care burden onto family members through legal requirements only causes significant strain between families, potentially dissolving bonds even further.