Judges: Parents Must Pay Their Adult Children’s Bills

By Ben Johnson Published on November 2, 2018

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.

Print Friendly
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
  • Lisa

    Gosh…no wonder the birthrate in Europe is so low. The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again!

    We should bring shame back. And promote pride in accomplishments instead of self esteem. They really worked when I was growing up. I avoided doing things that made me ashamed of myself and strove to make my family proud of me.

    Of course, that was in conjunction with a Catholic upbringing which taught about sin and redemption, guilt and peace. I wonder if Europe will make the connection.

  • Paul

    I have friends whose adult children are still living with their parents. The adult kids work and contribute and no complaints from the parents. There was a time when it was not uncommon for households to have 3-4 generations in them. Why is this now assumed to be bad? This isn’t the same as being a bum, the article is kind of co-mingling the two issues.

    • Bryan

      I’d say it’s pretty clear in the article that the children described are not the ones you know. Nor are they incapable because of illness or handicap.
      Now the stats may include some people like your friends but I bet it’s a pretty small portion of the group.
      I think the article in general is more about the attitude and help the State is giving to foster that attitude, rather than the specific living arrangements. The living arrangement is not the cause of the issue. The attitude is the cause.

      • Paul

        “Now the stats may include some people like your friends but I bet it’s a pretty small portion of the group.”

        The stats do include people like my friends, it is just assumed the adult kids are bums and that the parents deep down are eager to be rid of them.

        I get it, I understand there are today some young adults that are bums, living off their parents, doing nothing to contribute and feeling entitled. They are the minority. There were these types of bums when I was a kid, the difference being the courts didn’t get involved and the bum kid got tossed out of the nest and had to get serious or live under a bridge. Some I knew ended up doing the latter.

        Bums are not new, that is why the Bible writes about them, it was a reality thousands of years ago as well.

        What is different today is technology. Social media enables interaction without the need to change location. Heck, I look at myself at this moment, sitting on the sofa watching financial reports on ROKU, and on my smartphone checking my business, responding to email, exchanging comments at Stream, and looking at the local weather forecast. If I were into facebook, twitter, snapchat, etc I could waste the entire day interacting with family and friends without leaving the sofa. I can order my dinner and groceries to the door, and if I must go somewhere I can summons an uber to come get me. A version of the world exists in the palm of my hand, and even using the phone keyboard is becoming old school. Todays kids take all this for granted, while in contrast I was using typewriters in school and thought the party phone line was cool but was paying by the minute. Worse yet was a call to another area code and scary pricing to call international. Written communication was via a mailed letter. Now we can email and skype all day long connecting the globe. Technology has and continues to fundamentally change the way we live our lives for good and bad.

        Add in socialism and we have a toxic recipe of providing free smartphones, free food, free rent, free healthcare, etc and we get a whole new level of entitlement and enablement. Many of these analyses of people who have been raised in the midst of all this really fall short in accounting for the impact of these fundamental changes and expect todays kids to behave as if they were being raised in a different era.

        • Bryan

          You bring up a good question: which are the majority from the subset of children living at home, children who are like your friends, helping at the house and working a job with potential for growth, or children living at home who are not working or voluntarily working at a low paying job, with little or no growth opportunity, not contributing to household expenses and upkeep, and generally mooching off their parents because they can and want to?

          • Paul

            We are left to guess since the stats don’t tell us. But we both know it is typically assumed they are all of the latter category. I would add there are other categories such as sick or disabled kids, kids helping sick or disabled parents, and kids in genuine life transition like divorce or higher education.

    • tz1

      My grandparents moved in with us, and had the larger bedroom in our not that large home. Later after my grandfather died, and my grandmother had a heart attack, she went to live with my aunt. In all these cases it was a multigenerational home.

      Wait until one of the parents get sick and needs constant observation – not falling with their life button, but a seizeure or stroke where they can’t press it (or the many false alarms). Please, could you come back home and take care of us, at least a few days a week so I can get out? We can’t afford a home health aid and we don’t have neighbors who can help these days!

      Another difference is these are intentional one or two child families, so they are helicoptered. Not too way back when, 4 or 5 children were common so there was not just the parent’s basement, but uncles, cousins, siblings, so that it wasn’t a single point of dependency. We replaced that for the poor with welfare. GovDaddy?

Greater Purpose
Paula White-Cain
More from The Stream
Connect with Us