Court Rules Teen Can’t Force Parents To Pay For School

Rachel CanningA New Jersey judge denied an 18-year-old’s petition to force her parent’s to pay for her education and housing in a case that has garnered national attention. 

Rachel Canning, 18, tried to sue her parents for living and tuition expenses after she claims the pair kicked her out of the house last year. Her parents told a different tale, saying that their daughter left home because she didn’t want to follow some simple house rules.

During the lawsuit, Canning claimed her parents were physically and verbally abusive before they kicked her out of the house. Canning has since been living with a friend, and she sued her parents for expenses and tuition costs for the private high school she attends, and for tuition expenses for the college she plans to attend this fall.

House Rules

Elizabeth and Sean Canning, the parents at the center of the case, tell a vastly different story. They say Rachel got upset after they laid down some ground rules after she:

  • Got suspended from school
  • Partook in underage drinking
  • Began dating someone they didn’t think was a good influence on her

The judge was inclined to side with the parents after hearing both sides.

“Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in constant fear of establishing basic rules of the house?” said Morristown Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard. “Since if they institute a rule that Junior doesn’t like, Junior can move out. He can move in with another family, he could sue for child support, attorney’s fees, car, cell phone, and a few hundred grand in college.”

Bogaard recommended that both sides, which haven’t spoken to one another since October, seek counseling before the next scheduled court appearance in April.

Sean Sullivan comments

I’m all for a good lawsuit, but I would have to agree with the majority of public opinion that this lawsuit is frivolous. Essentially what this child is asking for is temporary support to be awarded while the case is pending.

Under Illinois law, a party to a family law case can ask for temporary support in the form of monetary payments as the case is pending. However, this provision in the law was intended to be generally be used by the custodial parent against a non-custodial parent who is failing to pay while a custody battle is being fought. I have never seen it employed by a child against a parent. Overall this case is sad because it is no doubt so contentious, but it will be interesting to watch and see how the rest of the pending issues are decided.

Related source: Today

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