Today, most courts find that a parent has a duty to support an adult child who is unable (as opposed to unwilling) to support himself. Sometimes this is based on a court’s interpretation of an applicable statute. Other times there is no statute on point and the court instead relies on the decisions of courts in prior cases. Occasionally, if the court has no supporting statutory or case law on which to rely, the court will forge ahead and base its decision on its interpretation of the historical common law relating to parental duties.
A small number of courts around the country have held that a parent has no duty to support an adult child who cannot support herself. This minority position usually results from a court relying on a statute that specifically says a parent has no such responsibility, or from historical cases that are binding on the court and prevent it from ruling another way. Sometimes a court will refuse to require a parent to support an adult child because the state does not have a statute on the books that specifically imposes such a duty and, as a result, the court does not feel it has any authority to order child support without such a statute.