Mar 21, 2022
What is a Filial Responsibility Law?
It is true. Pennsylvania has a long-standing law called a filial responsibility law. It means quite simply that we have a responsibility to financially support a close relative, defined as a spouse, a parent, or a child. The law has been “on the books” since 1771 and is reportedly one of the broadest in the country.
Debbie Y. Schneider, Esq., an Attorney at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation explains filial responsibility law in Pennsylvania
The law requires that the person be “indigent,” but does not define what indigent means. Therefore, every Court considering application of the law in any particular instance, must define indigent for themselves. One recent case described those that are completely destitute and helpless, but also those that have limited means, but whose means are not sufficient to adequately provide for their maintenance and support. The law also places precise limits on the amount of support that can be imposed in any instance.
For clients who are divorcing, the lesson is quite simple. Do not delay your divorce. The law does not apply to ex-spouses; it cannot be imposed on two people who are legally divorced. So if you are in the process of divorce and find yourself feeling ambivalent about moving forward for any reason, but you know you do not want to live with your estranged spouse, it makes sense to move forward. Once divorced, you will not have any liability for your ex-spouse if by some chance that person becomes indigent.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation