It took a conference committee to get to a resolution, but legislation to end a century-old requirement that adult children be financially responsible for their parents has landed on the desk of Gov. Youngkin.
The sentiment embodied in current state law may have been the right one when it was enacted in 1920, but “it really isn’t made for modern society,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax), who is patroning the bill.
“That statute is rarely used and outdated. [Today] we have a social safety net,” Ebbin said during testimony before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Courts of Justice.
Ebbin said he was prompted to introduce the legislation at the behest of a constituent and came upon a number of horror stories where the legislation was used as a legal battering ram in family disputes. In one case, he said, a son who ran his mother’s finances into the ground then sued his own sister to force support of their mother.
The law, which sends such disputes to Juvenile & Domestic Relations district courts, has teeth. Those found guilty of violating court orders to provide parental support face fines and up to a year in jail.
That, Ebbin suggested, was ridiculous.
“I don’t believe adult children should be responsible for their parents’ debts,” he said.
Maybe, but Del. Timothy Anderson (R-Virginia Beach) countered that the Code of Virginia section slated for repeal was still used in some bankruptcy cases.
Anderson voted against sending the measure to committee, but was alone among the eight voting subcommittee members in opposition.
The full committee voted to add language to the measure that satisfied Anderson’s concerns, and the bill was passed 88-10 in the House of Delegates, sending the measure to a conference committee between the two houses.
The committee recommended rejecting the House amendments, a decision that won passed on a 40-0 vote in the Senate and by an 81-16 margin in the House of Delegates. That means Ebbin’s original bill goes to Gov. Youngkin for action.
More than half the 50 states still have support-your-parents legislation on their books, Ebbin said, but that’s down from nearly all states in the 1950s.
Ebbin’s bill is SB389. The relevant Code of Virginia section is § 20-88.