Monday 22 December 2014

Judge throws out teenager's attempt to sue parents for 'refusing to pay' her university fees

Judge says ruling in Rachel Canning's favour would have created a 'potentially slippery slope'

Published 05/03/2014 | 14:21

Rachel Canning

A New Jersey judge has ruled against a teenager’s request to sue her parents for immediate financial support.

Rachel Canning sought immediate relief in the form of $650 (£390) in weekly child support from her parents, and the payment of the remainder of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School, as well as attorney's fees.

But Judge Peter Bogaard denied the 18-year-old’s request, warning that her attempt at suing her parents could create a “potentially slippery slope”.

“We have to ask ourselves, do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in constant fear of enforcing the basic rules of the house,” he said. “If they set a rule a child doesn’t like, the child can move out, move in with another family, seek child support, cars, cell phone and a few hundred grand to go to college.

"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."

Rachel claims her parents kicked her out of their property when she turned 18 and have since refused to pay for her further education, even after she received acceptance letters from several universities.

In court filings, she allegedly said her parents were abusive, contributed to an eating disorder she developed and pushed her to get a basketball scholarship.

Rachel is asking to be declared non-emancipated from her parents and therefore dependent on her parents support.

The Cannings said they were supportive, helped her through the eating disorder and paid for her to go to a private school where she would not get as much playing time in basketball as she would have at a public school.

In court filings, Rachel's parents, retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife, Elizabeth, said their daughter voluntarily left home because she did not want to abide by reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew, doing a few chores and ending a relationship with a boyfriend her parents say is a bad influence.

They say that shortly before she turned 18, she told her parents that she would be an adult and could do whatever she wanted

“We love our child and miss her”, Mr Canning told The Daily Record the day before the hearing. “This is terrible. It’s killing me and my wife. 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 and she’s saying, ‘I don’t want to live under your rules’.”

Rachel, who reportedly has a $20,000 (£12,000) scholarship, has said the University of Vermont is her first choice as a location to study towards becoming a biomedical engineer, local media has reported.

Mr Bogaard ordered all parties to return to court on 22 April to present all evidence and testimony to determine whether the Cannings are obligated to financially support their daughter.

Rachel has been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend.

Independent News Service

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