Mom Sues Abandoned Son for Parental Support

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on September 22, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Shirley Anderson of British Columbia abandoned her three children 30 years ago. Now she's suing them for parental support.

Under Canada's little-used Family Relations Act, adult children must provide parental support in instances of old age, illness, and economic hardship.

She wants $750 a month per child.

Would this ever happen in the United States?

Parental support laws do exist in the U.S. Also known as filial responsibility laws, they are on the books in about half of the states.

Some statutes make it a crime to deny parental support in cases of illness and severe economic hardship. Others only allow government entities to recoup money spent on housing, health care and food.

A smaller number of parental support laws also allow creditors to sue adult children in a limited number of situations. For example, Pennsylvania allows private nursing homes to sue a resident's child when bills are left unpaid.

Adult children may often skirt responsibility under these laws if they are not financially capable of supporting a parent, or if the parent has done something wrong.

And in cases of abandonment, the New York Times reports that courts may find that the parent-child relationship does not exist.

Though these laws remain effective, they are rarely enforced by prosecutors and state agencies. It's more likely that a person would be sued by a private individual, or that the government might seize a parent's property for payment.

Even so, parental support laws are not something to be trifled with. They exist, and they can be enforced. So know your obligations before you deny a parent support.

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