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Legislation takes adult children off hook of supporting parents

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Who knew: For more than a century, the adult children of Virginians have had a legal obligation to support their parents in times of financial distress, and if they didn’t meet that obligation, could be subject to a fine or even jail time.

But that looks about ready to change.

Legislation patroned by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) would rescind Section 20-88 of the Code of Virginia, which requires any adult “of sufficient earning capacity or income, after reasonably providing for his or her own immediate family, to assist in providing for the support and maintenance of his or her mother or father, he or she being then and there in necessitous circumstances.”

(As the somewhat archaic phraseology within the quotation marks suggests, this measure has been in the state code at least as far back as 1920.)


The code section gives judges of Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations district courts the power to enforce the measure, designating how much adult children would have to pay in support and how those costs would be divided up among siblings. Anyone failing to adhere to such rulings is subject to a fine of up to $500, imprisonment of up to 12 months – or both.

Ebbin’s bill, SB 389, is a bastion of simplicity: In a single sentence, it repeals that code section. The measure passed the state Senate on at 39-0 vote, and now sits in the House of Delegates awaiting final disposition.

One presumes the existing statute long has been in disuse, but even if Ebbin’s measure wins House of Delegates support and is signed by Gov. Youngkin, it would remain on the books until July 1.

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