Financial support for parents a growing issue
In a pending case before the British Columbia Supreme Court, 71 year old Shirley Anderson is seeking parental support from her children, including her son Ken. Reportedly, Ken Anderson, age 46, last saw his mother 10 years ago and has seen her about 10 times since his parents moved from Osoyoos when he was age 15. After his parents moved to Vancouver, Ken left high school and lived at times with neighbours and an employer. Shirley, who never worked, now has significant financial difficulties following termination of spousal maintenance upon her former husband's death, and seeks to impose legal liability on her children to contribute to her support pursuant to the British Columbia Family Relations Act.
The British Columbia Family Relations Act provides that an adult child is liable to maintain and support a parent who may be dependent. A parent may be dependent due to financial constraints or illness. Factors considered by the court, both in relation to imposition of legal liability and in setting the amount of support to be paid if liability is imposed, include the adult child's other responsibilities, liabilities and the reasonable needs of the adult child. The court will also consider the relationship, or lack thereof, between the parent seeking support and the adult child. However, the absence of a relationship will not necessarily negate any financial obligation on the part of the child.
Most provinces in Canada have similar statutes imposing a potential obligation on children to provide financial support to parents. Although relatively few claims were brought before the court in the past, the issue is gaining prominence as Canada's population ages. Also gaining prominence is the debate on the issue of government responsibility for the support of the elderly, including taking into account underfunding and limited public resources, as opposed to legal liability of children pursuant to statute, such as the Family Relations Act in British Columbia. Alberta repealed its parental support laws in 2005. The debate will likely become more heated in future as the elderly population in Canada grows.