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Do you have to help your parents or in-laws who are in need?

Verified 26 August 2021 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

Children have an obligation to help a parent who is unable to meet his or her needs (eating, dressing, housing, taking care of himself or herself, etc.). This is calledmaintenance obligation. It shall take the form of financial aid or in kind. This assistance varies according to the income and expenses of the child (or the person who will pay it) and the parent who will receive it.

The descendants are concerned by the maintenance obligation towards their father, mother or ascendants in need.

Sons-in-law and daughters-in-law may also be affected by this assistance to their in-laws in need.

The following persons may be exempted from maintenance by the Family Court Judge (Jaf):

  • Child whose father or mother has seriously failed to fulfill this obligation towards him/her (examples: violence, abandonment of family)
  • Child whose father or mother has had his rights and duties withdrawn from him (withdrawal of parental authority)
  • Child who was removed from his or her family before age 12 and for more than 36 months

In principle, the parent in need amicably sets up an agreement with his or her children or the person who will provide the financial assistance.

However, if no agreement is possible, the parent requesting assistance must demonstrate that he or she is in need, that is, unable to buy food, clothing, medicine or even shelter.

The application is then made to the Family Court Judge using the following form:

Application for maintenance - Referral to the Judge for Family Affairs

All expenses and income of the person affected by the maintenance obligation (i.e. the duty to provide for his parents) are taken into account.

The maintenance obligee (i.e. the person who is going to finance the needs of his parents) must provide the judge with proof of the expenses that are compulsory in his daily life (rent for example), if he wishes him to take them into account.

However, its resources must be sufficient to enable it to support itself as well.

If the person with whom he or she lives has not been personally summoned or assigned by the judge, his or her resources are not taken into account.

The same is true for the income of the past partner or cohabiting partner.

On the other hand, the judge takes into account the burden-sharing (rent for example) which the person who will receive the maintenance obligation may receive.

The duty to provide assistance between spouses (which is equivalent to the maintenance obligation) takes precedence over the obligation to provide food to parents who are dependent on the child.

For example, if the mother is in need, it will be up to her husband to help her financially first.

Only if his income is not sufficient will the children be solicited.

Children may also have to pay for the food where one of his parents is unable to pay for the retirement home orEhpad: titleContent where he resides. The pensioner will have to demonstrate that he is in need and that his pension is inadequate.

The maintenance obligation may be fixed in one of the following ways:

  • Either an amicable agreement between the parent who will receive the financial assistance and the person who will pay it
  • Either by the Family Court Judge (Jaf) of the court to which the parent or child belongs (in the case of an application by the parent)
Who shall I contact

The judge will fix the maintenance contribution in the judgment, taking into account the situation of the two parties.

The food contribution can take various forms: free accommodation, food or money (pension).

The child or person who does not pay maintenance for more than 2 months to a parent or step-parent commits a offense family abandonment. She faces a prison sentence of 2 years and €15,000 of fine.

A letter must be sent by the parent to the public prosecutor the court on which the domicile of his descendant or his own is dependent.

Who shall I contact

A person outside the family or body (called a third party) who has financed the needs of a parent in place of the child may turn against him or her.

The third party may take any of the following actions:

  • Use the services of the department to recover the sums due to social assistance
  • Use public health facilities to recover costs of hospitalization or nursing home accommodation

A letter should be sent to the public prosecutor the court on which the person in need or the child depends.

Who shall I contact

This obligation shall end in any of the following cases:

  • In case of divorce
  • In the event of the death of the person with whom you lived and the absence of a child from the marriage or when they died

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