Ask Jennifer: Week ending 1/25

Updated: 01/12/2015 6:56 AM
Created: 08/04/2009 11:50 AM WHEC.com

Dear Jennifer,

The (name withheld) hospital called me and told me my father was there. Apparently the police found him in his car just sitting there. He didn’t know where he was. He wasn’t making any sense. They called me because he had my name in his wallet. Jennifer, I hadn’t seen him in 30 years or more. He walked away from us when I was very little. I saw him a couple times but after that there was nothing. I explained it all to them and they said he was still my father and I needed to tell them what to do. Really? He’s not my father. He was a sperm donor and that’s it.  He didn’t pay child support and he wasn’t involved in any aspect of my life. It didn’t matter to the person calling – they wanted somebody to make the decisions for him. They kept pushing and I got mad. I told them I didn’t care what happened to him and I wasn’t about to help him when he was never there for me. Then I hung up. My phone rang after that from the same number, but I didn’t pick up and I didn’t call them back. Was there something else I could have said? Is this going to happen to me again?


Dear Alicia,

You are referring to what is called “Filial Responsibility Laws” which refers to laws in some states which require adult children to be financially responsible for their parent’s care costs. There are 30 states with these laws in place; New York does NOT have such laws.
Certainly our health care system gets jammed up when having to plan life decisions for elders left at their doorstep. I understand why they wish someone would take this burden from their shoulders. That said, I empathize with you in this case. Don’t let them bully you, particularly if your father did not pay child support for 10 years or more before you were 18 years old. If you are concerned in the future, consult an elder law attorney.


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