NJ teen sues parents for financial support: loses round one in suit

A New Jersey high school senior sued her parents, asserting her parents had thrown her out of the family home when she turned 18 and refused to pay for her private high school and college education. But her parents say she left on her own.

Rachel Canning asked the court to have her parents pay $650 a week in support for the foreseeable future, the outstanding tuition for her private high school, $5,000, and immediate access to a college fund to pay for at least some of her college education, plus pay her legal bills in excess of $12,000.

At a hearing on March 4, 2014 in New Jersey State Superior Court, Judge Peter Bogaard, denied school tuition and current living expenses. A hearing is scheduled in April to deal with the other issues in the suit, including college costs.

Bogaard sounded skeptical of some the lawsuit's claims, saying it could lead to teens "thumbing their noses" at their parents, leaving home and then asking for financial support. "Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an Xbox? For 13-year-olds to sue for an iPhone?" he asked. "We should be mindful of a potentially slippery slope."

Court documents show frequent causes of parent-teenage tension - boyfriends and alcohol - taken to an extreme.

Rachel is a high school honor student at Morris Catholic High school where she is also a cheerleader and lacrosse player. She contends she was cut off from her family and could lose the opportunity to attend college, where she hopes to major in biomedical engineering.

Rachel Canning is staying at the home of a friend whose father, John Inglesino, is an attorney and former Morris County Freeholder. Inglesino is funding the lawsuit on the basis that the suit is the only way Canning can go to a college appropriate to her. Rachel, who has a $20,000 scholarship, says the University of Vermont is her first choice.

Rachel's father, Sean Canning - a retired Lincoln Park Police Chief, tells a different story. He says his daughter ran away from home in November because she didn't want to follow house rules. "Living in our house, there's rules," he said. "There's minor chores. There's curfews - when I say curfew, it's usually after 11 o'clock at night." Sean Canning insists he is not refusing to pay for her college education. "I reject the whole premise," he said. We have a college fund that's available to her - there's no doubt about that. But it's the equivalent...of going shopping at a high-end store and sending someone the bill."

The social media was quick to respond with comments tilted toward favoring the parents. Tish Howard, a former elementary school principal and CEO of an educational consulting firm, said, "Here is another example of what happens when children are over entitled.

Howard, the former school principal, said she feels "deep compassion" for the parents. "I am saddened that someone in their life was not brave enough to have a critical conversation with them years ago about disabling children with an easy path," she said. "Self esteem and accountability are by products of overcoming disequilibrium and succeeding not by having adults eliminate the hurdles and failures for you."

Family law experts in New Jersey say Canning's case might set legal parameters on whether non-divorced parents in the state are obligated to pay for their children's college education and provide other financial support after the child has left home.

If you are up against a family law issues such as this or you are facing a divorce, child custody or child support issue, Stange Law Firm, PC can help. As a firm that focuses exclusively on family law, our attorneys have the knowledge and experience to handle cases of complex litigation and mediation as well.

NJ Teen Suing Parents Won't Get Immediate Support, David Porter, Associated Press, March 4, 2014