Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Filial responsibility laws: what happens among different states?

On this blog, I’ve created several postings about filial responsibility laws (or “poor laws”) in a number of states. I’ve noted that, except in lookback situations, they have so far been rarely enforced, but they might be used more often as states look for relief from pressure on their Medicaid resources particularly.

One obvious question would be, what happens when the adult child lives in another state? I’ve never seen much discussion on that question. In general, with other civil claims, lawsuits can be filed across state lines and people can be subpoenaed from other states. Some of this has to do with the “full faith and credit” concept. If someone does not appear for civil litigation, often a judgment is entered against the person. It may be quite difficult to collect on the judgment in practice. I suppose collection agencies could be used. I haven’t (yet) heard of this particular situation generating business in the debt collection world (in which I was employed for a while in 2003), but I can imagine that it could develop.

Perhaps the most likely "across state lines" situation would occur with the federally defined "look back" situation, but only when the parent has given away assets to qualify for Medicaid.

In non-giveback situations, it’s obvious that a lot of questions could arise. What if the adult child lives in a state without those laws? What the claim is unusual (like a sibling related claim) that would not be valid in the state of the adult child? Or, perhaps even more important, what if the parent had moved to another state from the one in which the child was raised, and then become impoverished?

In families with more than one adult child, it’s all to easy to imagine disputes over how to allocate the responsibility, and state laws are never specific as to these questions. Should it be based on adult child assets or income? If a particular adult child has no children and others do have children, should that child bear more or all of the responsibility? These raise questions of a moral nature that we don’t know how to deal with. Imagine how it can affect the LGBT community.

I know another gay man in a caregiver situation who paraphrases the “family values” crowd as intending to say “gay people do not contribute to society by raising children, etc.”, Isn’t this a lot of what groups like “Focus on the Family” really mean but are afraid to say bluntly? Then on the notorious soap opera “Days of our Lives” the character “grandma Kate” (“Hurricane Katrina”) says “We take risks for our flesh and blood; that’s how we’re wired.” But maybe some of us aren’t wired that way. I think the writers of these soap operas know have caught on to that.

It’s true, the “me generation” has found other interests beside having children, and this is creating a new demographic problem as people live longer without maintaining independence (and being able to work or having enough saved for retirement and perhaps for long term care). Ask Philip Longman, author of “The Empty Cradle.” It’s true, however, that in the United States the birth rate has increased and actually now there is a bit of a baby boom again, but it may be happening more among minority immigrants and those at economic disadvantage.

We hear that global warming and the energy crisis are an example of a sustainability problem. It seems that family demographics is creating another sustainability problem, the morals and ethics about we don’t even know how to talk about. Certainly, moral values and personal responsibility, the way we usually present these issues (and the way they play out on shows like Dr. Phil) have their flip sides.

The label for this posting (“filial piety”) is a new one (representing the concept as in China, discussed July 14. Blogger seems to be able to display only ten items on a label, so the visitor can navigate the items marked “filial piety” down to the June 30 posting, that carries the label “filial responsibility laws” and then navigate that label to see all the relevant postings on this problem. The detailed information by state appears largely on July 7 and 12, 2007.

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