Q: I have a 47 year old child with Down Syndrome, can I be held financially responsible for paying for his care and costs of living?
A: In Arizona, no. Arizona does not have a “filial law” where parents are financially responsible for adult children, or, conversely, where adult children are responsible for their elderly parents’ long term care expenses. Essentially, in Arizona, once a child reaches age 18 their parents are no longer financially responsible for them. However, not all states have similar legislation.
Recently, Pennsylvania’s Intermediate Superior Court of Appeals heard a case involving filial law. Specifically, in the case of Melmark v. Schutt the Court had to determine whether New Jersey’s limited filial support law or Pennsylvania’s broader filial law would require the parents of a 31 year old special needs individual to pay for his care costs. If New Jersey law was applied, the parents would bear no financial responsibility, whereas Pennsylvania’s law provides no age based exception to a parent’s responsibility to pay for care for their adult child.
In this case, New Jersey’s public funding paid for this special needs individual’s care costs at a Pennsylvania facility over the course of a decade. When New Jersey cut funding for “cross border” placements, the individual was returned to his elderly parents, who also received an invoice for unpaid care totaling over $200,000. In this situation, the Court ruled in favor of the parents, providing that the New Jersey law is enacted to protect elderly parents from financial liability associated with their indigent children. The Court further rejected the argument that Pennsylvania law should control and the facility ultimately was not able to recover payment for its $200,000 bill.
-Rachel Zaslow, Esq.