Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Filial Responsibility Laws -- New Jersey, North Carolina
In July (7 and 12), on this blog, I went through the filial responsibility laws of a number of states and gave the references. Remember that the change in 2005 to Pennsylvania law to move filial responsibility from the “welfare code” to the “family code” was seen as politically and socially provocative, although it’s not clear that it has been enforced since then.
Today, I looked up New Jersey (which, ironically, has made significant gains in equality for same-sex couples, like Massachusetts), and North Carolina.
New Jersey is here:
(or plug in "101" at the end of the URL) on a legal website called HelpLineLaw.
The text is as follows:
"44:4-100. Ascertaining and obtaining or compelling assistance of relatives Upon application for the relief of a poor person the county welfare board shall ascertain if possible the relatives chargeable by law for his support and proceed to obtain their assistance or compel them to render such assistance as is provided by law.
"44:4-101. Relatives chargeable a. The father and mother of a person under 18 years of age who applies for and is eligible to receive public assistance, and the children, and husband or wife, severally and respectively, of a person who applies for and is eligible to receive public assistance, shall, if of sufficient ability, at his or their charge and expense, relieve and maintain the poor person or child in such manner as shall be ordered, after due notice and opportunity to be heard, by any county director of welfare, or by any court of competent jurisdiction upon its own initiative or the information of any person. b. The provisions of this section shall apply to the minor children of a mother whose husband shall fail properly to support and maintain such minor children when by reason thereof they are likely to become a public charge. c. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any person 55 years of age or over except with regard to his or her spouse, or his or her natural or adopted child under the age of 18 years. Amended by L.1968, c. 446, s. 2, eff. Feb. 19, 1969; L.1975, c. 1, s. 2, eff. Jan. 14, 1975; L.1979, c. 401, s. 2, eff. Feb. 8, 1980."
It’s interesting that in New Jersey the filial responsibility process would start when a parent applies for welfare, and would not apply to adult children over 55 (I haven’t seen that exception yet with other states).
The North Carolina reference is as follows. (PDF file)
Here is the text. It is fairly typical for these laws, providing some criminal penalties and being structured as a “poor law.”
"14-326.1. Parents; failure to support.
If any person being of full age, and having sufficient income after reasonably providing for his or her own immediate family shall, without reasonable cause, neglect to maintain and support his or her parent or parents, if such parent or parents be sick or not able to work and have not sufficient means or ability to maintain or support themselves, such person shall be deemed guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor; upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense such person shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. If there be more than one person bound under the provisions of the next preceding paragraph to support the same parent or parents, they shall share equitably in the discharge of such duty. (1955, c. 1099; 1969, c. 1045, s. 3; 1993, c. 539, s. 227; 1994, Ex.Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c).)"
Original reference giving statute numbers for all states on "Everyday Simplicity" blog: here.
Update: Oct. 14, 2007
I have not seen any specific state laws on how filial responsibility is to be divided among adult children in a family. This would seem to be at the discretion of officials. I have not seen any statutes that specify a greater liability for adult children without their own children, for example (the "family slave" problem). At least one state (NJ) limits liability at age 55, and another (Va) limits it to 60 months.
It is not clear how filial responsibility laws work when the adult children live out of state. The "lookback period" laws depend on federal statutes and would apply, but the "poor laws" that don't necessarily involve prior "giveaways" might be harder to enforce out of state. There is still a "full faith and credit" issue that works with other laws like this (for example, "alienation of affection" judgments, that can only come from some states, can be enforced out of state -- see the Dr. Phil show on Oct. 19, 2007).