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Honor and “Support” Thy Father? Parental Support in Pennsylvania

By: Robert B. George, Esquire
       [email protected]

You may be surprised to learn that you can be liable for the bill and support of an indigent parent under Pennsylvania law.

In fact, Pennsylvania has had some form of law on the books imposing a duty upon a child to support an indigent parent since 1771. Before July of 2005, these laws were part of Pennsylvania’s welfare laws but have since been made a part of Pennsylvania support laws as and more commonly known as “filial support laws”. These laws are said to exist for the primary purpose of relieving or limiting the financial burden upon the government as the “payor-of-last-resort” for support and necessary services of the indigent person.

The applicable Pennsylvania support laws state that a spouse, child and/or a parent of an indigent person are responsible for the cost to care for and maintain or financially assist the indigent person, regardless of whether that person is a public charge. The only two noted exceptions are (i) if the individual who has potential liability does not have the financial ability to support the indigent person, or, (ii) if the parent abandoned the child for a period of ten years or more prior to the child reaching the age of 18, in the case of a child who has potential liability to support a parent. The mere assertion of an inability to pay for the indigent parent without sufficient proof, however, is generally not going to be enough to mount a successfully defense to liability for an indigent parent.

An action under the Pennsylvania Support Act can be brought by the indigent person as well as any public agency involved in the care of the indigent person. In addition, it has long been the law in Pennsylvania that a nursing home which provides an indigent person/parent with shelter and care has a sufficient interest to make a claim and seek reimbursement under the Pennsylvania Support Act against the parent’s child.

A party seeking recovery under the Pennsylvania Support Act may also choose from one or more of the possible family members against whom to file a claim for contribution and/or reimbursement of necessary expenses for the indigent person under the Act. Importantly, however, the family member named in the initial legal action for the support of a parent or another family member may join any other family member(s) allowed under the Act for contribution and/or reimbursement, such as the indigent person’s spouse or other children of the indigent person.

Should you be the subject of case/claim for the support of a parent or another family member under the Pennsylvania Support Act, it is highly recommended that you consider consulting with an attorney who has experience with such matters in order to ensure that your rights and interest are properly protected.

The attorneys at the Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP are experienced and available to help you. Contact Robert B. George, Esquire at 610-565-5700, or send him an e-mail at [email protected].

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The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP, is located in Media, PA and serves clients in and around Media, Glen Riddle Lima, Brookhaven, Wallingford, Newtown Square, Lenni, Springfield, Swarthmore, Chester, Aston, Bryn Mawr, Morton, Woodlyn, Broomall, Gradyville, Folsom, Chester Heights, Crum Lynne, Glen Mills, Marcus Hook, Ridley Park, Drexel Hill, Marple, Bethel, Garnet Valley, Chadds Ford Concord, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County.

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