New Jersey 18-Year-Old Sues Parents for Private School Tuition. Loses in Court.

GI 76360 troubledteensfighting

She can vote.

She can join the Army.

She can be participate in pornography and prostitution and no one will be tried for abusing a child.

She can be tried and convicted of crimes as an adult in our courts of law.

So, why is this “child” suing her parents for support? Not, mind you, just support. She is suing for tuition to private schools. The articles I read also said she is suing for a share of an educational savings account.

I don’t know who owns the educational savings account. If her name is on it as well as her parents, then she may have a legitimate case about that.

As for the rest of it, I am a bit confused by this young lady’s thinking.

Rachel Canning, of Lincoln Park, NJ, is suing her parents for tuition money and support. She says that her parents kicked her out of the house when she turned 18. Somehow, she thinks that her parents are required by law to keep her in the style to which they have evidently led her to become accustomed into the foreseeable future.

I’m not exactly sure of the legal peg she’s hanging this on. There must be some strange wrinkle in New Jersey law that makes this a credible case. So far as I can see, Ms Canning is an adult. No one is required to support her under penalty of law, and that includes her parents. However the court arguments I’ve read seem to revolve around whether or not Ms Canning is emancipated. Under Oklahoma law, that question would arise if she was a minor. Since she’s 18, it would not. The assumption is that adults, unless they are legally not responsible due to some sort of disability, are emancipated.

Even if she was still a minor child, I don’t know of any stipulation under the law (at least here in Oklahoma) that requires parents to provide private school educations for their children. Children are entitled to an education, and if the parents don’t provide an alternative such as private school or homeschool, they always have access to a free education in the public schools. Parents have a legal requirement to provide education, either in the public schools or by another venue for their children.

But no one is required by law to send their children to exclusive private schools.

Ditto for food, shelter and clothing. Children must have a decent place to live, food and clothing. If parents can’t provide these things, there are programs to help them. If they won’t provide them, children can and sometimes are removed from the home. However, there is a strong bias under the law to reunite families as well as many helps for parents in putting together a home for their children. At no time is anyone required by law to provide designer clothes, lavish houses, or gourmet food for their children.

You can watch a brief video from the hearing on this case by going here. The discussion between the judge and Ms Canning’s attorney is all about the way Ms Canning and her parents speak to one another in emails and texts. That may be appalling to hear, but I don’t think it’s pertinent. The issue to me is clear-cut. This is an adult, suing other adults for support. Is there any legitimate basis for that suit?

Based on my understanding, I don’t think so. Maybe New Jersey law is different. Otherwise, I don’t see a case here.

However, the question of what kind of home life, social climate and child-rearing techniques produce a situation like this is wide open. The private high school Ms Canning attends is a Catholic school. She claims in court records that the family income is in excess of $300,000 per year. It would be interesting to learn what sort of social/family environment created this young lady.

From CNN:

(CNN) – A high school senior’s lawsuit against her mother and father for financial support and college tuition hit a hurdle Tuesday when a New Jersey judge denied the teenager’s request for immediate financial assistance from the parents.

Rachel Canning, 18, alleges in her lawsuit that her parents forced her out of their Lincoln Park, New Jersey home, and that she is unable to support herself financially. The lawsuit asks that her parents pay the remaining tuition for her last semester at her private high school, pay her current living and transportation expenses, commit to paying her college tuition and pay her legal fees for the suit she filed against her parents.

Her parents say she left home because she didn’t want to obey their rules.

…  Canning, an honor student and cheerleader at Morris Catholic High School in Denville, says in court documents she had to leave her parents’ home because of emotional and psychological mistreatment, alleging, among other things, that her mother called her “fat” and “porky” and that her father threatened to beat her.

“I have been subjected to severe verbal and physical abuse by my mother and father,” Canning wrote in a court certification. “I am not willingly and voluntarily leaving a reasonable situation at home to make my own decisions. I had to leave to end the abuse.”

Canning left her parents’ home at the end of last October. After spending two nights at her boyfriend’s home, she moved into the home of her friend in a nearby town, where she has been staying ever since, according to court documents written by the parents’ attorney.

… Canning was suspended from school for truancy last October, according to court documents filed by her parents’ attorney, Laurie Rush-Masuret. Her parents told the teen that she could no longer see her boyfriend, who was also suspended from school. Car and phone privileges were also taken away. Once she learned of the punishment, Canning cut school again and then decided to run away, her father said in court documents.

Once she left home, her parents notified Morris Catholic High School that they would no longer pay for their daughter’s tuition, the documents state.

“They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me, and have redirected my college fund indicating their refusal to afford me an education,” Rachel Canning stated in court documents.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    Wait, “Canning was suspended from school for truancy “? She’s suing for tuition to a school that she has a history of ditching class from? WTF?

    There is something very, very wrong with this story.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Isn’t this the most ridiculous thing? I tell you, this is one of those markers that tells me our civilization is dying. Where are we going in this country? I guess I shouldn’t be so pessimistic. At least she did lose the law suit..

  • FW Ken

    Sounds like this is a story with two sides. Who knows.

    We have our own local lawsuit story. Four years ago, we had the Superbowl and a winter storm at the same time. A big visual was ice sliding off the dome of Cowboy Stadium. Well, a guy was injured by falling ice and is suing for millions because no one warned him about the falling ice. The problem is, he saw ice falling before he was hit. But no one warned him to be careful.

  • AnneG

    And, the family where she is living is paying for the suit. Hmmm. Very bad situation. Very spoiled, entitled kid. Does she want a car, too?

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    I have a grown daughter who moved out not long after turning 18. She had been increasing belligerent and in trouble since she was 12 or 13, and she had this idea in her head that once she was 18, all the rules would go away. We are so inconsiderate and unreasonable as to require she do her school work, have a curfew, and turn over the cell phone she had misused. She moved out, and she’s chosen a hard track in life. Frankly, the young woman suing her parents sounds like she’s cut from the same cloth.

    • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

      That must be so wrenching as a parent. May she suddenly be enlightened and return.

    • Dave

      Arggh. I have a similar daughter. I love her dearly, but she had basically increasingly turned our family upside down since she was about 13, refusing to follow any rules or even civility. We finally found alternate living arrangements for her at about age 17, and my regret now is that I didn’t find those alternate arrangements earlier. We (including her) are all a lot happier now that she’s on her own – we’re still working on recovering from the trauma.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        It was an agony and a relief when she left. There was a peace in the
        home I hadn’t known was possible, and my four-year-old’s night terrors
        stopped immediately. If it makes sense, I get angry at her for hurting
        herself, for making choices that will make her life harder for
        years–and now my grandson’s life too.

        How do I express love to
        someone who thinks “I love you” means, “I will let you do whatever you
        want”? How do I express forgiveness when she thinks it means she did
        nothing wrong?

        • Dave

          Sounds like we are living the same life. Have you looked into Borderline Personality Disorder? That fits our daughter to a tee…not that the label really helps that much.

          I’ll add some prayers for your daughter when we pray for ours. It’s a mess that only God can sort out. I’m not even sure how much is our daughter’s fault. In our case, I think there are a lot of hormonal issues on their mom’s side of the family, among the cousins, aunts and uncles, etc.

          • Rebecca Fuentes

            Thank you. We will keep you and this family from the news in our prayers too.

  • Bill S

    I don’t care what the law says. You don’t ever throw out an 18-year-old who wants to continue at a Catholic school. The fact that this is even a problem confirms the girl’s claims as to how unfit her parents are. If they knew anything about parenting they wouldn’t find themselves in this position. They are going to absolutely ruined her life. Are they in the right legally? Absolutely. Should they be doing what they’re doing? No way. In this day and age there’s no way that an 18-year-old should be required to live independently if she is still attending school and has no other means of support. I would have never done that to my kids even if they were a discipline problem. How about family counseling? What a thought.

    • SisterCynthia

      The fact that she is an entitled brat does lend credence to your claim that her parents ruined her, but having to suck it up and make choices (those cruel ones, like “tanning day at the spa, or food”?) might help her pull her head out of those The World OWES ME! clouds and figure out that she is responsible for herself now. I chose to leave home as an 18yo because of family trouble, too. But guess what, I had a job, wasn’t ditching classes (honors student) and paid rent to friends to live with them while I went to community college. So, um. “Waaaaaaaaa.” Or, as the saying goes, “suck it up, Buttercup.”

      • Bill S

        That is great that you could do that and I don’t doubt that this girl could be problematic. But you do everything you can for your kid. If she is attending a Catholic High School, try to keep her going to it. Don’t cut off her tuition. You don’t like her boyfriend, deal with it. Go to family counseling. Do whatever it takes. Cutting ties with an eighteen year old should be a last resort if she is beyond rehabilitation and ruining the family.

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          It doesn’t say thrown out. It says “Forced out”, which much more vague. It might be the parents saying, “Get out. Come hell or high water, we won’t have you back,” but it can also be the teen’s perception, “I was forced to leave because living there was awful-I couldn’t see my boyfriend, stay out late and I had to return things I borrowed from my sisters!” One of the first articles I saw on this quoted the parents concerns: their daughter was skipping classes, dating a boy they disapproved of, refusing to follow curfew and refusing to return things taken from her younger sisters. It is just as likely that the teen cut ties as the parents.

          • Bill S

            The thing that gave away the way the father is was his refusal to pay the Catholic highschool. This is a guy that is going to be the boss and control people in his family the way he did the police department. Forget about family counseling. That’s for weak minded people. Forget about reaching out and talking to the other father who took her in and explaining why he wants his daughter to come home. Just a total bone head. It’s all about showing who’s boss at the expense of losing a daughter. Stupid and stubborn.

            • Rebecca Fuentes

              So you know the family?

              • Bill S

                No. I don’t. But we know that 1. this father having been the police chief, is used to being the boss and we can assume this is how he runs his family. 2. He is telling a 17 year old to dump her boyfriend. Very controlling. 3. He stiffs the Catholic high school which has no control over the situation and which has actually disciplined her. 4. He lets her stay at a friend’s house and has them support her without even talking to the other father.

                This is an adversarial man who is used to getting his way and isn’t hesitant to play hardball with his own daughter. I’d say I know enough about this guy to see that he is a major part of the problem. Not to mention there has been no attempt to seek family counseling.

                I had a father like that. So I sympathize with her and give her credit for standing up to a tyrant.

                • Rebecca Fuentes

                  So you would never, under any circumstances, tell or prevent your teenage daughter from seeing a boyfriend? Must they just accept with a shrug that she is dating a boy who was expelled from school? What about when he drops out? What about when he starts buying illegal drugs (Not indicated in this story, but at what point DOES a parent get to put his foot down and say, “This person is bad for you,” without being a controlling ass?)

                  Either you are seeing much more in depth reporting on the family than I have heard, or you are making some uncharitable assumptions about the father. Has it been reported that the parents have not contacted the family she is living with? Are all police chiefs automatically nasty control freaks? While I will agree that they need to fulfill their financial obligation to the school, that isn’t all she demanded. A teen that insists on putting her boyfriend before everything else can have a devastatingly destructive effect on a family, including younger siblings.

                  • Rob B.

                    I’d say that Bill S is projecting quite a bit here, as he says, “I had a father like that. So I sympathize with her and give her credit for standing up to a tyrant.”

                    • Rebecca Fuentes

                      It’s likely I’m doing some myself. It’s never a good situation, and there’s enough blame for everyone not have seconds and thirds, I’m sure. I hope and will pray they reconcile someday.

                    • Bill S

                      What I will say about that is that, when I did recommend family counseling to my father in his dealings with his second wife and her children, he called me an ahole for even suggesting it. So I am probably seeing this father as rejecting it.

                  • Bill S

                    Either you are seeing much more in depth reporting on the family than I have heard, or you are making some uncharitable assumptions about the father.

                    The latter is a possibility. I don’t take well to authority figures and he is a former police chief. I had boys and didn’t have to worry about a daughter with a loser boyfriend staying out past curfew. I guess I should cut him some slack.

                    Still, I would seriously recommend family counseling and dialogue which should be a priority for both sides.

                  • Bill S

                    Rebecca F.

                    It appears that I am giving too much credit to this teen who is rebelling against her parents. They have legitimate concerns regarding her drinking and her attitude. I agree more with you. Her friend’s lawyer father created this situation when all that appears to be needed is family counseling.

                    • Rebecca Fuentes

                      I feel like the lawyer is using her and her family’s situation for his own gain, in both money and notoriety. I hope they can all get to the counseling you recommend and heal eventually.

    • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

      Given her wishes, isn’t secular school a better place for her?

      • Bill S

        No, Ted. She seems to be doing well in the Catholic School. If there is any indication that the father is a jerk, it is in not paying the school that she is already attending. Why bring the school into a disagreement with your daughter? Handle it within your family and seek professional help if you can’t.

  • kenofken

    She’s a libertarian! :)

  • Sus_1

    The girl went home http://news.msn.com/us/honor-student-who-sued-parents-returns-home

    “Angelo Sarno [her attorney] said the 18-year-old’s return is not contingent on any financial or other considerations. He said the suit had been settled “amicably,” but refused to comment further on the litigation.

    Sarno said the notoriety surrounding the suit had done damage to the family, and they are asking for privacy.”

    I hope they can all get it together now and this becomes something they laugh about on Thanksgiving in years to come. Getting attorneys and the court involved in family situations rarely fixes situations to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s really sad that this happened.


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