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Can You Sue Your Family Members for Child Care Services?

Unfortunately, no family is picture perfect. One of the major causes of family disputes involve disagreements on money. Recently, Kobe Bryant’s mother-in-law sued her daughter (Kobe Bryant’s wife) for unpaid child care wages, leaving many to wonder: could grandparents sue for child care services?


According to the United States Census, about 1 in 4 children under 5 years old are with their grandparents during the weekdays. About 80% of grandparents provide these child care services for free, and do not expect anything in return. A child care service company has become exceptionally rare to find, especially during the COVID 19 pandemic. Many child care services and schools were forced to shut down, placing the burden of child care on working parents. Parents resorted to family members for child care. In Los Angeles, the annual cost of child care was estimated to be around $14,000. (Kidsdata.org) Due to the rising costs of child care, grandparents have started to become more involved in their grandchildren’s day to day activities.

Ms. Laine and Ms. Bryant Child care Unpaid Wages Dispute

In the recent Bryant dispute, Sofia Laine filed a lawsuit against Vanessa Bryant, claiming she should be reimbursed for her personal assistant and nanny services. For example, Ms. Laine claims she assisted her daughter in day-to-day activities, especially driving the children to afterschool activities. Ms. Laine further stated that she deserves to be compensated $96 an hour for 12 hours a day, totaling 5 million in damages. Plaintiff Laine alleged that for 18 years, she worked alongside her daughter in taking care of the children. She was on call 24/7, and oftentimes stayed in a guest bedroom to continue caring for the children.

However, Ms. Bryant claims in response that her mother took care of the children occasionally, but never took on the role of a nanny or babysitter. In fact, Ms. Bryant claims that her mother was also never involved in business matters, and so never acted within the scope of employment of a personal assistant.

Unfortunately, labor disputes are very common within families. There is no federal law or state law put in place that mandates family member be paid for child care services. The main question would come down to whether or not there was a contract in place. The law views family service contracts as personal, and an agreement that should be determined amongst family members. In Vanessa Bryant’s case, Ms. Laine alleges there was an oral contract where she was promised she would be paid for her nanny services. She detrimentally relied upon this oral contract, and she alleges she worked because of the contract and the promise of payment. As of May 2021, Vanessa Bryant has requested that the judge dismiss her mother’s claim for failure to state an adequate legal claim. She adds that this claim is very vague and there was no oral contract.

Unpaid Wages

A claim for unpaid wages is an action brought by plaintiff to be compensated for hours worked that the employer has not paid for. California requires a payment of minimum wage, along with overtime hours to be paid to the employee for hours worked. In 2021, the minimum wage for California became $14 an hour. Anything paid less than the minimum wage is illegal. Overtime should be paid after 8 hours are worked in a single workday.

An independent contractor is a type of employee, and, under certain circumstances, could be exempt from being paid the minimum wage. An independent contractor must still be allowed lunch breaks. If filing a claim for unpaid wages, plaintiff could collect the past due wages, along with any interest added. In certain cases, plaintiffs suing for unpaid wages could also collect attorney’s fees. The statute of limitations for California is three years. Therefore, plaintiff should file a claim for unpaid wages within three years.

If you believe you have a contract with you a family member for child care services, and this has amounted to unpaid wages, contact our attorneys today to review your case. If no wage was discussed, our attorneys will determine the reasonable amount of wages compared to other babysitters in the area. In Ms. Laine’s case, it may be hard to prove the hourly rate since the agreement was oral. Our experienced employment attorneys at Heidari Law recommend that any agreements be in writing and signed by both parties, even though it may be an agreement amongst family members.

What to Include in a Child care Service Contract

To prevent any disputes, a contract should be written that contains the following terms. This list contains a few major terms to include, and other terms could be added based on individual circumstances. For more information, please contact our office.

  1. The name of the family member who will be employed.
  2. How many hours the family member will work. This could be full time or part time.
  3. The rate the family member will be paid.
  4. The names of the children that need child care services.
  5. What care would be included (driving children to and from school, cooking meals, reviewing homework, etc.).
  6. The length of the contract and when the child care service will end.
  7. Whether there would be overtime paid.

Paying grandparents for child care services is also somewhat recognized under the IRS when filing taxes. The IRS asks supplemental questions under child care services, inquiring as to whether the babysitter is a paid family member, or a paid professional babysitter. If parents are paying family members for child care services, parents must report that in their taxes, and those family members must report the payments on their income taxes. This income is subject to taxation, and a family member who provides child care services would be considered an independent contractor.

What Is a Personal Attendant?

California labor law consider child care providers personal attendants when they work significant hours. To be considered a personal attendant, the child care service provider must dedicate 80% of their work time caring for the child.  Personal attendant responsibilities include housecleaning, cooking, laundry, bathing the child, and feeding the child. Recently, in 2016, overtime hourly wages were mandated for those child care workers who were considered personal attendants.

Failing to take any steps in creating an employment contract could end up being very costly and risky to parents. With many job titles and mandated compensation, parents should speak to a lawyer to better understand tax and labor laws, and the fair amount to pay a family member for child care. Labor disputes may seem a bit complicated when deciding who is liable and what type of case a plaintiff should pursue. Call our attorneys at Heidari Law Group for a free consultation to assist you in determining if you have a labor dispute claim.

***Disclaimer: This blog is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this blog, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.

Sam Heidari

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Sam Heidari

Sam Ryan Heidari

Sam Heidari is the founding principal of Heidari Law Group, a law firm specializing in personal injury, wrongful death, and employment law with offices in California and Nevada. Sam Heidari has been practicing law for over 11 years and handles a wide range of cases including car accidents, wrongful death, employment discrimination, and product liability. The Heidari Law Group legal firm is known for its comprehensive approach, handling cases from initial consultation through to final judgment. Sam Heidari is dedicated to community involvement and advocacy for civil liberties.

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