Commentary: Providing for Parents

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, December 22, 2006

As someone who is looking forward to getting my adult child off the family payroll at some point, a recent article caught my attention. The Third District Court of Appeal overturned a ruling in a Placer County divorce case. The wife had argued and a court commissioner agreed that the $12,000 her ex husband spent in support of his indigent mother was an unauthorized gift of community funds. He had to give it back to the wife.

A three judge panel from the appeals court said no – he didn’t have to reimburse his wife, that the payment to his mother was a legitimate debt incurred during marriage.

A little known law in California states - and I’m quoting from the court here - that “Every adult child having the ability to do so who fails to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter or medical attendance for an indigent parent is guilty of a misdemeanor.” In other words, it’s a crime to neglect your parents.

In an ideal world, laws would not be needed to force parents to care for their children or adult children to care for needy parents. Our world is far from ideal. But this ruling serves as a useful reminder, if not a warning, that the ties that bind parent to child, and child to parent, can never be fully severed.


Ginger Rutland writes for the Sacramento Bee Opinion pages.