Adult Children Are Liable for Parents in Need

Q. I’ve noticed that your article has dealt with several questions about parents taking care of their children. While I would agree that this is the proper thing to do, I want to know whether there is a law that children should take care of their parents.

I come from a country where old people are respected, and children have a duty to look after their parents when they can’t look after themselves. I find it is disturbing that America does not seem to have this approach. It would be nice to find out if I am wrong.


Laguna Niguel


A. I hope you will be pleased to know that California law requires children to support their parents to the best of their ability if the parents can no longer maintain themselves by work.

The law also provides that an adult child who promises to pay for necessaries for the parent is liable for them. Necessaries generally include such items as food, clothing, shelter and medical care. This liability can also be criminal in nature since it is a misdemeanor in this state for a child to fail to provide necessaries to an indigent parent.

Q. I own a small laundry business. I have always accepted checks from my customers when they pick up their cleaning. Lately, I have noticed that the number of checks which have bounced has increased. Some of the checks have been made good, but others have not.

I know that if I went to court, I should be able to get the amount of the check. I think, however, that I deserve more. I can’t believe that these people who won’t make good on their checks don’t realize what they are doing! Doesn’t the law punish these flakes?




A. It does appear that the law sympathizes with your position, for any person who writes a bad check or stops payment on a check is generally liable for the amount of the check plus treble damages. Treble damages means an amount which is three times the check amount.

The law provides in these cases that the treble damages may not be in an amount less than $100 or greater than $500.

To obtain treble damages, the maker of the check must fail to make the check good within 30 days of a written demand by you. Your written demand must be sent by certified mail, and must set forth the amount owed on the check, and your intent to claim treble damages as well as the cost of mailing if the amount is not paid. The precise language of this demand is set forth in Civil Code Section 1719. The best place to find the Civil Code is at the Law Library in Santa Ana.

Treble damages cannot be obtained against a person who has stopped payment on a check because of a good faith dispute. A court must determine if there is a good faith dispute. Examples of good faith disputes are that service was never rendered;, service was faulty, or there was an overcharge.

Q. I was glad to see the articles about credit cards. I had a peculiar experience regarding a department store credit card that has been bothering me, so I have decided to write about it.

I recently went to a department store that I had not shopped at for a while. I decided to purchase something and gave the saleslady the store credit card. When she ran it through, she told me that the card could not be accepted, and that I would have to check with the credit department. I was very offended as I owe nothing on the account since the card hadn’t been used for some time.


I left the store without buying anything. I have never had any trouble with my credit cards, and, with the exception of this one, all my credit cards are still being accepted. I would like to know whether this store is crazy.



A. I am unsure from your letter whether the store has canceled your card or has just placed it on an inactive status.

If your card has not been used for more than 18 months, the store may place your account on an inactive status. When you attempt to use the card again, the store may require you to provide updated information as to verify your current credit-worthiness.

If the story has canceled your credit card, it must provide you with 30 days written notice of its intention to do so unless you have been in default of your payment within the last 90 days; violated any of the terms of your credit agreement; had your card stolen; or caused the store to reasonably believe that you are a credit risk.

B. Tam Nomoto, an Orange County Municipal Court judge, answers readers’ questions about the law. Ask the Judge runs every other Saturday in Orange County Life.