Assemblywoman JOANN DOWNEY
District 11 (Monmouth)
Assemblyman ERIC HOUGHTALING
District 11 (Monmouth)
Repeals anachronistic sections of law pertaining to filial responsibility.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act repealing various sections of the statutory law related to filial responsibility.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The following sections are repealed:
R.S.44:4-100 through R.S.44:4-103; and
R.S.44:1-139 through R.S.44:1-142.
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would repeal various anachronistic sections of law that pertain to filial responsibility. These statutory sections together provide that the children and spouse of a person who applies for, and is eligible to receive, public assistance, will be liable to maintain and provide for the poor person, at their own expense, as ordered by a court. An application to the court may be made by the poor person, or a complaint may be filed with the court by the director of welfare or two residents of the county. A child who was abandoned by a parent may be exempted from compliance with these filial responsibility requirements, or may be required to support the parent only to the extent that the parent supported the child. These laws also provide for the “overseers” of poor persons, or the county welfare board, to contract with a poor person’s relatives or other willing persons to induce such persons to provide aid and support to the poor person.
Although 45 states have enacted filial responsibility statutes based on an early colonial belief that children have a duty to care for their parents, the repeal of these filial responsibility statutes began in many states in the years following the creation of federal benefits programs, such as Medicaid, which provides basic medical care for seniors, and Medicare, which provides basic insurance coverage for seniors with financial need. Federal law also now prohibits states from considering the financial responsibility of any individual, other than a person’s spouse, when determining the person’s eligibility for Medicaid or other assistance programs, and it also prohibits long-term care facilities from requiring a third-party guarantee of payment as a condition of a person’s admission to, or residence in, the facility, except in those cases where an person has executed a durable power of attorney, an order of guardianship, or other valid authorization. In 1997, these federal principles were codified into New Jersey law, at section 3 of P.L.1997, c.241 (C.30:13-3.1).
Although the State’s filial responsibility statutes have not been invoked or enforced in more than 30 years, the New Jersey Law Revision Commission has indicated that there is still a concern that the continued inclusion of these provisions in the statutory law might cause confusion, as has been true in some other states that have failed to repeal similar laws. This bill, therefore, would officially repeal these dormant statutory provisions.