Judges: Parents Must Pay Their Adult Children’s Bills
Some time in my lifetime, the word “adult” has changed from a noun to a verb. We used to speak of people becoming adults. Now, we speak of people “adulting.” An adult is no longer what you are but something you do — hopefully, for as short as possible between endless bouts of video games and Netflix.
Take Michael Rotondo, the 30-year-old man who had to be evicted from his parents’ home this spring.
Rotondo made the news again just a few weeks ago. He refused to pay $56 a week in child support for his eight-year-old son and got sentenced to a year’s probation. The judge said he would lift the sentence if Rotondo got a job and started caring for his child.
One-third of Millennials in the U.S. are living with their parents — more than those living with a spouse.
As he left the courtroom Rotondo, who is now 31, called that choice “outrageous.”
He Won’t Pay Child Support, But He Will Appeal to the Supreme Court
He’s right — it’s outrageous that a judge should have to force a grown man to support his own flesh-and-blood. And it is outrageous that parents have to get a court order to pry their adult children out of their bedrooms.
Rotondo, now 31, has filed three petitions with the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn their decision.
But contrary to media coverage, Rotondo’s case is not the height of Millennial laziness. As with other destructive influences, Europe has taken the sin of sloth and entitlement to new heights.
To paraphrase the 1980s comedian Yakov Smirnoff: In Europe, the children sue you. Not only that, they win.
In Europe, You Never Have to Grow Up
In Europe, unemployed adults have sued to force their parents to keep paying their bills, sometimes until they are older than Rotondo. Moreover, across the continent, judges have ruled in their favor:
- A judge in the Spanish province of Galicia ordered two parents to continue paying their 33-year-old daughter a monthly allowance of €450 indefinitely. The aid only ends when Clara finds a job in the same field as her Master’s degree;
- In Cadiz, a judge ordered a man to keep paying his 29-year-old daughter’s expenses while she slo-o-owly worked toward a psychology degree;
- An Italian judge ruled that a middle-aged man had to support his 28-year-old son. The lad had taken extra time to finish college. Then instead of landing a job, he decided to take a course on experimental cinema. The judge said his father had to foot the bill, because the new degree met his son’s “personal aspirations.” And
- Another Italian court forced 60-year-old Giancarlo Casagrande to pay his 32-year-old daughter €12,000 in arrears, because he dared to cut off her allowance without a court order. He also had to resume his €350 a month stipend until she graduated with a philosophy degree — as soon as she finished her thesis on the holy grail. (Really.)
Millennials in the Basement
Rotondo, et. al., may live at home, but they’re not home alone. One-third of Millennials in the U.S. are living with their parents — more than those living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau. It is the first time in 130 years that staying at home is the most common living arrangement for Americans aged 18-to-34.
And about 10 percent of the 24 million members of that generation are not working or in any kind of schooling. That’s 2.2 million budding Rotondos.
Italy is home to so many adults who refuse to “adult” that they invented a term for it: “bamboccioni,” or “big babies.” U.S. sociologists call them NEETs: Not in Education, Employment, or Training. In the UK, they are KIPPERS (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings).
In Biblical terms, they’re locusts, devouring their parents’ living.
The snarky old bumper sticker said, “We’re spending our children’s inheritance.” Evidently, the kids got wise and demanded their cut up-front. British parents are currently paying £3,700 ($4,812 U.S.) a year for their stay-at-home adult children.
No Opportunities, No Hope
Of course, it’s not entirely laziness. Who can blame someone for staying at home when no entry-level jobs exist? In France and other European nations, high minimum wages and exorbitant benefits have dried up young people’s opportunities. A growing percentage of young people work on time-limited contracts. But they can’t make long-term plans on short-term jobs.
So, adults stay in their childhood bedrooms. In the EU, the average age people leave home is now 26 — the same age they leave ObamaCare. The average age is lower in the Brexit-bound UK (24) than in economically struggling Spain (29) or Italy (30).
Those numbers predate the current economic boom. So, it’s too soon to tell whether the “boomerang” generation was a one-time event or a permanent cultural change.
But it’s obvious that Europe needs to fundamentally change its economic policies to give young people independence — and their parents some much-needed relief. After all, a little time for relaxation, and leaving behind a good heritage for your children and grandchildren, are the benefits of a responsible adult life.
True, in some cases, adult children really are calcified by sloth. And as the Oompa-Loompas sang, “You know exactly who’s to blame: the mother and the father.”
I Blame the Parents
Rotondo admitted in his court filing that he “has never been expected to contribute to household expenses, or assisted with chores and the maintenance of the premises.”
His eight-year-old son may have more responsibilities than he does.
In a similar case in Italy (notice a pattern?), parents had to sue to evict their 41-year-old son. “He has a good job,” his father said, “but he continues to live at home and wants his clothes washed and ironed and his meals cooked for him. He never wants to leave.” Why on earth would he?
When adults finally change their parenting techniques to help their children mature, they should announce their plans in the kitchen, not before the bench. Judges have no business deciding when parents can cut the cord on their adult-aged children, whether or not those children wish to “adult.”
The family is the fundamental building block of society. Short of preventing abuse, its internal workings should be inviolable. But these rulings have taken Europe beyond a Nanny State — because a nanny can’t overrule the parents. Yet the EU now considers itself superior to the family, able to decide how senior citizens treat their middle-aged offspring.
Who can blame someone for staying at home when no entry-level jobs exist? In France and other European nations, high minimum wages and exorbitant benefits have dried up young people’s opportunities. A growing percentage of young people work on time-limited contracts. But they can’t make long-term plans on short-term jobs.
Worse, the rulings harm everyone, including the State. The government has a vested interest in citizens who put their shoulders to the grindstone and do the heavy lifting of getting a job, taking responsibility, and raising children to follow suit someday. An adult becomes a pillar of stability for other people. Any ruling that delays this process, as Tallyrand put it, “is worse than a crime; it is a mistake.”
The Millennials in these cases pay the price in the long run. They don’t deserve contempt; they demand our pity. The world will never know the potential wasted in these lives. And they will never experience true satisfaction: Earned success can’t be awarded through state interventions in the family unit that infantilize adults.
If adults are these judges’ victims, minors are the casualties. Children — the kind under the age of 18 — can’t have the safety and support they need when they’re raised by part-time adults.
When the judge gave Rotondo the option of providing for his son or a year’s probation, Rotondo responded, “Rest assured, I am going to comply with probation.”
The people who can least afford for adults to act like children are actual children.
Rev. Benjamin Johnson is an Eastern Orthodox priest and senior editor of the Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty Transatlantic website. His views are his own.