In many states a child is responsible for the care of that child's parent. Thirty states that have filial responsibility laws on the books, include: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.
To date, Pennsylvania is the only state that has been aggressively enforcing its filial responsibility law, however, with charity care provided to hospitals and nursing homes for indigent patients being cut, it is clear that nursing homes in other states with filial support laws will follow Pennsylvania's lead in an effort to stay afloat.
Although these laws all call for adult children to financially contribute to the care of their aging parents, they are enforced in a variety of ways. Twenty-one states allow civil lawsuits to recover financial support. Twelve states provide criminal penalties for nonsupport. Finally, three states allow both civil and criminal actions.
In most states an adult child's liability is limited if it is shown that he or she isn't able to pay, and these laws terminate a child's liability upon the child attaining a given age. Courts will also consider other factors, such as the adult child's ability to save for his or her own retirement. Some states also exempt adult children who were abandoned by their parents as minors.