March 4, 2004 Update from Fox News: “A New Jersey honor student suing her parents in a potentially precedent-setting lawsuit had her motions for financial support, including high school tuition payment, denied Tuesday by a judge who said it would set a bad precedent by setting limits on parenting.”
A New Jersey cheerleader and honor student who left home after turning eighteen is suing her parents for college tuition. According to Rachel Canning, her parents kicked her out, but they claim that she moved out on her eighteenth birthday because she did not want to follow the household rules. Her dad told the Daily Record, “We’re heartbroken, but what do you do when a child says, ‘I don’t want your rules, but I want everything under the sun and you to pay for it’?”
Rachel is living with a friend whose parents are funding her legal action, which includes suing not only for access to a college tuition fund, but also demands that her parents pay an outstanding private school tuition bill as well as her living expenses that have accrued since she left home.
According to the Daily Record,
“The father said that he and his wife did stop paying the Morris Catholic tuition and have kept Rachel’s car because they paid for it. The father contended that Rachel moved out because she didn’t want to abide by simple household rules — be respectful, keep a curfew, return “borrowed” items to her two sisters, manage a few chores, and reconsider or end her relationship with a boyfriend the parents believe is a bad influence.”
But turning eighteen does not automatically mean a child is emancipated in New Jersey:
The mere fact that a child has turned 18 is not an automatic reason to stop financial support, according to Helfand and several longtime family attorneys in Morris County. A key court decision in the state specifies that, “A child’s admittance and attendance at college will overcome the rebuttable presumption that a child may be emancipated at age 18.”
Rachel is alleging abuse, according to the case filings, but her father, Sean Canning, said that a “DCP&P representative visited his home for about three hours last fall, found nothing amiss, determined that Rachel was ‘spoiled’” and discontinued the investigation. He said that he and his wife are beside themselves that discord with their daughter has reached this level.
Should parents be forced to provide support for adult children who don’t want to follow the family rules? This case could set some very interesting precedents.