Rachel Canning Sues Parents For College Tuition: Does She Have a Case?

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Rachel Canning, a New Jersey teen, says her parents kicked her out of the house. Now she's suing them for financial support, private school and college tuition.

The parents, meanwhile, say their daughter moved out voluntarily after refusing to abide by their rules and has no right to demand anything from them in return.

“We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. It’s killing me and my wife,” Rachel's father, Sean Canning, a town administrator and retired police officer, said.

“We have a child we want home. We’re not Draconian and now we’re getting hauled into court. She’s demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn’t want to live at home."

"She's saying, ‘I don’t want to live under your rules.’”

The rules, Sean Canning notes, include reconsidering her relationship with a boyfriend who may be a bad influence, being respectful, and abiding by her curfew.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, who live in suburban Lincoln Park, about 25 miles outside of New York City, have kept their daughter’s car because they paid for it.

He admits ceasing payments on Rachel's tuition at private Morris Catholic High School. A hearing is scheduled for today in Morris County Superior Court.

It gets even weirder than this makes it sound.

For months, Rachel, an honor student, cheerleader, and lacrosse player, has been living with the family of her best friend and classmate, Jaime Inglesino.

Jaime's father, attorney John Inglesino, is bankrolling Rachel’s lawsuit, and requesting in the lawsuit that the Cannings reimburse him for the legal fees.

In the suit, Rachel also alleges that her parents decided to cut her off “from all support both financially and emotionally” as of her 18th birthday, November 1.

Her suit also demands the following:

  • That the Cannings take care of an outstanding $5,306 Morris Catholic tuition bill
  • That the couple pays their daughter’s current living and transportation expenses
  • That they free up her college fund; she’s already been accepted several places

It’s not unheard of for youngsters to take legal action against parents for various offenses, but this is a gray legal area that hasn't been widely explored.

Mary Coogan, assistant director of the nonprofit Advocates for Children of New Jersey, says of the unusual case, "There’s really no law directly on point.”

“This young woman is actually saying, ‘I want the court to compel my parents to continue to support me financially. That’s what’s unique in this case."

What families in similar situations have done is file for what’s called a “family crisis petition,” in which the court will try to mediate an agreeable outcome.

Indeed, talking the situation through would be a much better route than a lawsuit, says Kenneth Neumann, a New York divorce mediator and psychologist.

Unfortunately for Rachel, Neumann says, “I don’t think she has much of a case. This sounds like just an 18-year-old who got into a thing with her parents.”

What do you think? Does she have any legal basis for the lawsuit?

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