We’ve all heard about Orders for the financial support of spouses, children and dependants, but what about Orders that adult children must support their elderly parents? In a recent article from the Toronto Star, the paper outlines a law that was recently passed in China that enables parents to sue their adult children for not visiting enough. As the article makes clear, the concept behind the law was to offer some relief to the government of a rapidly aging population, and ensure that some of the costs for the care of the elderly are passed on to the family.

While the idea of parents suing their children for not visiting often enough may seem shocking to many, few people may realize that similar laws are already in effect in every province in Canada except for Alberta. In Ontario, s.32 of the Family Law Act provides: “(e)very child who is not a minor has an obligation to provide support, in accordance with need, for his or her parent who has cared for or provided support for the child, to the extent that the child is capable of doing so.

The topic of “finial law”, as it is known, was discussed in a September 2011 article from the Globe and Mail. As the article points out, laws were passed by cash strapped provinces at the height of the Great Depression that enabled the state to impose a financial duty on children to look after their poverty-stricken parents. While the Canadian laws do not go as far as their Chinese counterpart (there is no requirement to visit your parents in Canada), the laws themselves are still on the books.

While cases attempting to impose this duty are rare, recently in Anderson v. Anderson, the BC Court was forced to consider a claim brought by an elderly mother for support from her adult children. While the mother’s claim was eventually dismissed (she had been estranged from her children for quite some time), that the court considered her request (and even initially granted her interim support of $10 per month from each child), may come as a surprise to many.

Children of the world, you have been warned.

Stuart Clark