Friday, February 25, 2022
Naomi Cahn of University of Virginia School of Law Law joins Clare Huntington, of Fordham Law and Elizabeth Scott, Emerita Professor at Columbia Law, to propose needed changes in family law to reflect the impact of aging. In their forthcoming article for Yale Law Journal (Vol. 132) titled Family Law for the One-Hundred Year Life, they contend family law must address the interests and needs of families across the life span, and not just those of younger people. They point to three areas for focus: the dignity and autonomy interests of older persons, structural inequalities, and the need for legal mechanisms that are efficient and accessible. An example of their calls for legal reform is the discussion of intrafamily personal care contracts:
The response of regulators and courts to intrafamily personal care contracts illustrates well the law’s failure to support family care, especially for low-income families. In arranging in-home care, older adults sometimes contract with service providers, but they also contract with family members. A care contract is especially helpful when an older adult wants to receive these services from a family member but the family member cannot provide care without compensation. But these agreements run into problems. If the older adult is trying to qualify for Medicaid, many states scrutinize the contracts to ensure they are not simply a means for transferring assets from the older adult to the younger relative, helping the older adult satisfy Medicaid’s means-tested eligibility requirements. Partly based on the assumption that familial care is provided altruistically, state regulators regularly find that the agreements are, indeed, fraudulent transfers. This is an example of class-based discrimination: intrafamilial contracts for care are not scrutinized by public authorities unless the care recipient seeks to qualify for public support through Medicaid.
Equally interesting is their discussion of "opt-in or opt-out" concepts for the definition of family. All-in-all, this article looks to the future of judicial, regulatory and legislative legal systems, while also offering ways to challenge our students in the classroom now.