Filial responsibility laws
Filial responsibility laws (filial support laws, filial piety laws) are laws in the United States that impose a duty, usually upon adult children, for the support of their impoverished parents or other relatives. In some cases the duty is extended to other relatives. Such laws may be enforced by governmental or private entities and may be at the state or national level. While most filial responsibility laws contemplate civil enforcement, some include criminal penalties for adult children or close relatives who fail to provide for family members when challenged to do so. The key concept is impoverished, as there is no requirement that the parent be aged. For non-Western societies, the term "filial piety" has been applied to family responsibilities toward elders.
A “filial responsibility law” is not the same thing as the provision in United States federal law which requires a “lookback” of five years in the financial records of anyone applying for Medicaid to ensure that the person did not give away assets in order to qualify for Medicaid.
At one time[year needed], as many as 45 U.S. states had statutes obligating an adult child to care for his or her parents. Some states repealed their filial support laws after Medicaid took a greater role in providing relief to elderly patients without means. Other states did not, and a large number of filial support laws remain dormant on the books.
Generally, the media has not covered filial responsibility laws much, and there has not been the political will to see that they are enforced. As of 2019, twenty-six states plus Puerto Rico have such laws on the books, and a few states require the potential support of grandparents or even siblings.
Typically, these laws obligate adult children (or depending on the state, other family members) to pay for their indigent parents’/relatives' food, clothing, shelter and medical needs. Should the children fail to provide adequately, they allow nursing homes and government agencies to bring legal action to recover the cost of caring for the parents. Adult children can even go to jail in some states if they fail to provide filial support.
States and territories with filial responsibility laws
Note: Iowa was still included in the list as of 2019, but repealed its filial responsibility law in 2015.
- Arkansas law can only require payment for adult mental care.
- Connecticut law only applies if the parents are younger than 65.
- Nevada law only mandates filial liability only if there is a written agreement to pay for care.
In 2012, the media reported the case of John Pittas, whose mother had received care in a skilled nursing facility in Pennsylvania after an accident and then moved to Greece. The nursing home sued her son directly, before even trying to collect from Medicaid. A court in Pennsylvania ruled that the son must pay, according to the Pennsylvania filial responsibility law. 
Similar laws in other jurisdictions
In Germany, people who are related in a "direct line" (grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren) are required to support each other, this includes children with impoverished parents (de:Elternunterhalt, support to parents).
Singapore, Taiwan, India, and Mainland China criminalize refusal of financial or emotional support for one's elderly parents.
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- Callahan 1985, p. 32 harvnb error: no target: CITEREFCallahan1985 (help)
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