A dentist in Taiwan has been ordered to pay his mother nearly $1m (£712,000) as an "upbringing fee."
In Chinese and Taiwanese traditions, children are strongly encouraged to give back to their parents once they have reached adulthood. Taiwanese law even forbids people from abandoning their parents. This sort of agreement is often left to the discretion of the families, however, one woman took this tradition to a whole new level: She made her sons sign a written argument to ensure they'd pay their debt. When one of the sons refused to pay more money, he got served.
While rare, such a contract is lawful, and Taiwan's Supreme Court sided with the mother on 2 January. They asked the youngest son to pay his mother an "upbringing fee" of $754,000, as well as interests bringing the amount to $967,000.
The woman, only known as "Luo," made sure her sons wouldn't forget her sacrifice and pay her back in full.
Luo's husband, named Chu, worked at a dental practice funded with her family's money until their divorce. She raised her sons alone and was counting on them for her dotage.
After putting them through dentist school, she grew worried that they might not pay her back. In 1997 she took matters into her own hands and had them both sign a contract when they turned 20 years old, reports the BBC.
The contract stipulated that the sons would pay her 60% of their net profits until the total amount paid reached $1.7m. After becoming a dentist in 2003, one of the son objected, saying he had paid her back enough already and didn't have anymore to give her. In 2010, the mother filed a lawsuit.
"When I was young I came from a naive and wealthy family and married into a military family that didn't even have a medical license," Luo said at the time, "I sacrificed all of my leisure time."
The eldest son reached an agreement with his mother and had to pay a smaller amount, However, things didn't turn out so well for his younger sibling.
The youngest son told the court that he had worked for his mother's practice and had already paid her back $1m. He argued that his debt should be cleared, given he had signed the contract at a very young age, and that it was wrong of his mother to ask for financial retribution for raising him.
However, the Court ruled that he was already an adult we he had signed the contract and should be held responsible in respecting its terms. They ordered him to pay the remainder of the sum as well interest. The decision was met with mixed reaction in Taiwan, where the case gathered a lot of attention.
Although loyalty to one's parents in important to the Taiwanese, some pointed out younger generations face a tougher economic climate that their parents. One Taipei-based dentist, Wu Chih-hang, summed up the situation for the New York Times.
"I believe everyone should want to repay their parents for raising them once they've grown old," he said, "so I support the judges' decision.
"I also sympathise with the dentist's rough lot. His mother went as far as to put a value on raising her son, which is probably a difficult environment for the average person to imagine growing up in."