Do siblings have to help each other financially in France?

Reader question: I have heard of the obligation alimentaire , which means that you must financially look after needy parents. Does this exist between siblings? F.D.

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No, the obligation alimentaire only exists between spouses and between ancestors and descendants, that is to say from children towards parents and grandparents and in the other direction, from parents and grandparents towards children. It does not exist in a lateral direction, towards brothers and sisters.

This obligation, which is set out in the Code Civil (article 205), refers to helping the person to maintain the essentials of life, such as food, accommodation, and medical care, by providing them with money from time to time. This only applies where the person is in serious need and unable to provide properly for themselves, and the obligation is in proportion to the means of the family member. Usually, the obligation falls first on the relatives with the nearest link, ie. parents should help out children first, if able to, before the grandparents are called on to help.

There is also an obligation alimentaire towards parents-in-law, although this ends if a couple divorce. Ultimately, a family affairs judge can be asked to rule if there is a dispute over this. Where the person claiming the right to an obligation alimentaire has themselves seriously neglected their own obligations towards the person they are claiming help from, the judge may relieve the latter of their responsibility.

If a judge fixes the amount, it will then rise annually based on a set figure linked to the cost of living. It can also be altered again if circumstances change, on application of one of the parties to a judge.