Teen sues parents for college money

 
Rachel Canning at a preliminary court appearance on 4 March, 2014. A judge wonders whether Rachel Canning's case will "open the gates to a 12-year-old suing for an Xbox"

At age 41, I'm probably too young to ask what the deal is with kids today, but... What's the deal with kids today?

Last week we heard of the daughter whose Facebook bragging cost her father a hefty age-discrimination settlement. Now there's this:

According to New Jersey's Daily Record, a high school student who left home when she turned 18 is suing her parents to get them to fund her college education. Depending on whom you ask, she was either thrown out by her mum and dad or departed on her own accord because she didn't want to live by their rules anymore.

Peggy Wright reports that Rachel Canning is asking a court to order her parents to pay the balance of her private high school tuition, cover rent and living expenses and "commit an existing college fund to their daughter".

On Tuesday, a New Jersey superior court judge ruled that there was no "emergency basis" to award Rachel money immediately for her outstanding high school tuition and living expenses.

Start Quote

Just because you can vote, work, enlist in the armed forced and get married doesn't mean your parents are no longer obliged to care for you”

End Quote Mary Elizabeth Williams Salon

In announcing his decision, Judge Peter Bogaard wondered about the precedent the case may set.

"What will the next step be?" he asked "Are we going to open the gates to a 12-year-old suing for an Xbox?"

Another hearing is set for 22 April, when lawyers will bring in supporting witnesses. In the meantime Rachel is living with a friend, whose father is bankrolling the lawsuit (reimbursement for legal fees incurred is also part of the case).

"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," reports Wright.

The issue, it seems, turns on whether Rachel is "emancipated" from her parents under state law. If a court finds she isn't, then the parents may have to foot the bill. If she is, then she's on her own.

"Contrary to a popular opinion - and that private countdown clock ticking away in many parents' minds - a child is not automatically legally let loose to fend for him- or herself upon reaching an 18th birthday," writes Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams. "Just because you can vote, work, enlist in the armed forced and get married doesn't mean your parents are no longer obliged to care for you."

If that 18-year-old is still a student, for instance, the parent-child ties may still bind.

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Is this a case of a spoiled rich girl wanting something for nothing or do her parents owe her?”

End Quote Erin Edgemon AL.com

Williams says that she can see both sides of the dispute:

It's hard for the many, many of us who cobbled together our educations while working thankless, crappy jobs to have a lot of sympathy for an able-bodied, intelligent girl who'd haul her parents into court to make them pay for college. But it's also got to be a humiliating and very scary blow for a high school student to have her folks stop supporting her and paying her current tuition.

The case has garnered widespread attention, as Rachel's Facebook (again - parents, take heed!) pictures, including bikini and cheerleading photos, have been spread far and wide across the Internet.

"Well, that's one way to get back at your parents," writes Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times.

"Is this a case of a spoiled rich girl wanting something for nothing or do her parents owe her?" asks Erin Edgemon on the Birmingham News website AL.com.

The Australia website News.com.au - yes, the story has gone global - seems to know the answer to that question, with its headline: "Spoiled teen Rachel Canning takes parents to court".

Lisa Needham of the blog Happy Nice Time People has a message for Rachel.

"Many a grown person is not allowed to live under Mommy and Daddy's roof because they are terrible adult layabouts who were overindulged as children and never grew out of it, which is pretty much how you sound," she writes.

She continues:

New Jersey courts, we beg of you, do not reward this behavior or you will have parents who are now legally stuck with their horrible adult offspring standing outside your doors with pitchforks in no time.

There's more to this case than just name-calling and parents-said, daughter-said, however. In a society where a college education is usually an essential key to a successful future, do parents have an obligation to provide this for their children?

In this case in particular, if parents have already set aside money in a college fund, does that child have a claim on it?

And finally, do we really live in the kind of society in which familial arguments can turn into acrimonious court disputes in which no one is likely to come out a winner?

Wait, I already know the answer to that one.

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 20.

    There is probably a back story we know nothing about and deciding what to do based on our attitudes toward teens who act entitled is deciding we absolutely know what was going on here. What I see is parents trying to control a kid through their pocketbook because she insisted on staying in a relationship with her boyfriend. What if they object to him because he is of a different race or religion?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 19.

    Whether the parents win the case or not, their next step should be to take legal action against the idot who has intruded in a private family relationship by financing this suit. Should poor children sue their parents for not providing what they want? Finally, this may be only the latest step in the evolution of near total government oversight of how parents may discipline their children.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 18.

    Understand that the way financial aid works is based on parents income. If she is not emancipated she will be unable to receive financial aid which will mandate her to acquire third party loans with high interest rates. It is a parents duty to provide an education for a child and whether or not they disapprove of their daughters boyfriend should not be means to cut off ties with their daughter

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 17.

    Exergy is correct inasmuch as the parents should be contractually obligated to pay the school tuition. They entered the contract with the school. As far as college goes, this decision is significant because the US offers tax shelters for parents who save for college. Those funds are earmarked for a child- usually an FBO acct - so when the child turns 18 - what happens to that fund? Whose is it?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    Surely this is not good for either girl or parents. The adults she now lives with should be ashamed. The American courts have threatened marriage and now they threaten having children, all to benefit lawyers. Let em have it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 15.

    What's the deal with the parents who raised the kids today?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 14.

    The only thing I can see is high school tuition. A parent has the choice over what high school to send their child, and should be committed to finishing it.

    Otherwise she is out on her own.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 13.

    Liberal judges will muck this up. And then they will muck up the suite by the 12 yr. old for the X-Box. I can still hear the flushing!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 12.

    IT seems the Parents were trying to bring a child In-Line; before she committed an offence where they would be alleged by the same justice system to have 'spoilt' a kid. Use the defence (like in Texas) where a rich kid could not differentiate Good from Bad. Some one else steps in and prevents this ! My faith in American justice system could be shaken with this case.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 11.

    I would ask,
    "What's next, a son or daughter suing even when the parents can't afford to pay for college/university?"

    What about the son/daughter that picks a degree that has little or no chance of a job at the end of it?

    When is the "magic date" that a parent can decide what they "have to do" and "what they chose to do"?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 10.

    Without knowing the details between her and her parents, it is difficult to judge.
    As expensive as education is today, sharing this burden would be the least to ask and perhaps to expect. I would consider this as part of the responsibility enjoined with creating and raising children.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 9.

    There are two sides to every story. But for a daughter to sue her parents speaks that there are a lot deeper issues.

    One thing is for sure, even if the girl wins or loses, she has lost her parents for life.

    And this alone is sad.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 8.

    5. My two boys, in their 30's now, and the teenage battles for independence, while well behind us, left their mark on my relationship with one son, rarely seen now. Suggest caution and sensitivity while being open and firm, but compassionate. The rule, pre-teen was a degree, hence no question that a degree was an inevitability - I gladly paid for the three degrees they earned but regret the angst.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 7.

    As someone who once taught students like her, they pretty much get what they want. Have you noticed that the school has said nothing? Will they lower their tuition? Will they dare save a family? Yes, she may be a spoiled child beyond repair, just like the rest of the entitlement generation, but she is getting no help from the school which she wants to attend. There is greed by everyone all around.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 6.

    Humans aren't fully developed mentally until age 25, a factor which must be taken into account.

    An established college fund may be considered a promise.

    Merely because a child isn't as obedient as you might like, is not a god reason to abandoned them for life.

    A college degree, per se, is not a prerequisite for a successful or happy life.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 5.

    @1.Kingsbayfisherman Rubbish. She is a spoiled brat who can't abide by her parents rules. My kids 18 & 21 both still live at home and both abide by the house rules and that's it. Parents pay the mortgage so have the right to set rules. This kid sums up the lack of discipline these days.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 4.

    This reads like a classic case of entitlement - the root of all evil in Western societies in my opinion.

    Regardless of the legal outcome that young lady has a whole life ahead of her to learn that "what goes around comes around".

    The only advice I would offer her in language SHE rather than her parents might understand is......WUASTC !!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    1. Agree, hard to argue against precedent, however, a judge has to rule: http://lis.njleg.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/om_isapi.dll?clientID=305674&Depth=2&depth=2&expandheadings=on&headingswithhits=on&hitsperheading=on&infobase=statutes.nfo&record={353D}&softpage=Doc_Frame_PG42 doubt that this would have gone 'legal' unless money was put aside (tax deductible?) for the minor's education? The boyfriend?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 2.

    I hope they're in position to leave a big inheritance..... and strike her out of it. She wants her patents to have obligations to her, she should have accepted that comes with reciprocal obligations.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    I have a certain sympathy for this girl. Her parents chose to put her in an expensive private school and they should be responsible for her completing her high school education.
    Thereafter, college education is a privilege not a right and the parents should not have to pay. She is 18, has made her own decision to leave the family home, so now needs to fund her own degree course. Or a job maybe ?

 

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