A high school senior at Morris Catholic High School in New Jersey’s suburban sprawl is suing her parents because, she claims, they threw her out of the house when she turned 18 and have refused to pay for her college education.
The plaintiff in the novel lawsuit is Rachel Canning, reports the Daily Record of Parsippany, N.J. She is a cheerleader, a lacrosse player and an honor student. She wants to major in biomedical engineering.
Canning filed her lawsuit in New Jersey family court against her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning.
In the lawsuit, Canning claims that her parents cut her off when she turned 18 and that they have been mean to her. She has also claimed abuse, but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of abuse other than a yelling match a school official witnessed between Canning and her mother.
The 18-year old adult is seeking a declaration from a judge preventing her emancipation into the cold, cruel world under the theory that she must remain a nonemancipated dependent.
Specifically, Canning and her attorney, Tanya N. Helfand, are asking a New Jersey court to force Canning’s parents to pay a $5,306 Morris Catholic High tuition bill that is currently outstanding. Helfand will also ask the court to order the grown woman’s parents to pay for their daughter’s living and transportation expenses for the foreseeable future.
The attorney will also ask the judge to compel the Canning parents to use an existing college fund previously set up for Canning to pay for at least some of her college education, even though the parents say the college fund is freely available for Canning to use for tuition wherever she likes.
Finally, Canning’s lawsuit asks a judge to make her own parents pay her legal bills, which total $12,597 so far.
“I’m dumbfounded,” father Sean Canning told CBS New York. “So is my wife. So are my other daughters.”
The retired police chief has called his daughter “an incredibly rebellious teen.” He also said didn’t kick her out at all. Instead, he explains, she up and left on her own in late October because she didn’t want to abide by her parents’ rules.
An undercurrent in the family matter-turned-lawsuit also appears to involved a tale as old as time: the daughter’s boyfriend. She likes him; her parents do not.
“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,'” Canning told the Record.
“Living in our house, there’s very few things,” he also said, according to CBS New York. “There’s minor chores. There’s curfews. When I say curfew, it’s usually after 11 o’clock at night.”
Meanwhile, Rachel Canning is staying in Rockaway Township with a friend’s family. That friend’s father, attorney John P. Inglesino, is fronting the cash for the lawsuit and seems to be playing some advisory role in the litigation.
The defendants in the case – the parents – have also hired an attorney, Laurie Rush-Masuret.
Rush-Masuret claims that her clients never told their daughter to move out. “Rather they advised her that she is welcome home so long as she abides by their rules under their roof.”
“Rachel decided that she does not want to live within her parents’ sphere of influence and voluntarily moved out, essentially emancipating herself,” the attorney wrote. “Obviously, she cannot decide she will no longer live within her parents’ sphere of influence and simultaneously seek payment from them for support.”
Rush-Masuret also said the high school senior had been seeing a therapist, was supposed to be taking some sort of medication, had been suspended from school twice in the fall semester, ignored curfews and bullied her younger sister, according to the Record.
New Jersey law may favor the 18-year old plaintiff. As the Record notes, an important state court decision holds, “A child’s admittance and attendance at college will overcome the rebuttable presumption that a child may be emancipated at age 18.”
The next hearing in the case is Tuesday.