A New Jersey teen is suing her parents for college tuition.
So listen up, moms and dads of little ones — depending on which way the judge rules on this one, you might not want to earmark a savings account specifically for your child’s tuition. You know, in case your kid grows up and decides to sue you and uses the following case as precedent.
According to the Daily Record, Rachel Canning wants her parents to pay for her private-school tuition, college tuition, and living expenses. The teen claims her parents threw her out when she turned 18, but her dad, Sean Canning, calls Rachel an “incredibly rebellious teen” who ran away from home because she didn’t want to follow rules.
What rules, you ask? Well, the usual stuff like being respectful, keeping a curfew, doing chores. The Cannings also wanted Rachel to break up with a boyfriend who they thought was a bad influence. Rachel claims they told her to dump him or get out.
Rachel, who aspires to be a biomedical engineer, is an honor student at Morris Catholic High School in Morristown, N.J., and is on the cheerleading and lacrosse teams. However, her parents say she has disciplinary problems, has been suspended from school twice and bullies her sister.
But Rachel says it’s her parents who are the bullies and even claims they abused her. “My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules,” she said in her court documents. “They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as a punishment.”
Rachel contacted the state child protection agency with the claims of abuse but Sean Canning says a representative for child protection services visited for about three hours last fall and found nothing. Canning adds that the investigation was discontinued after the officer determined Rachel was “spoiled.”
Rachel has been living with her best friend’s family since October of last year. Her friend’s dad, an attorney, is funding the lawsuit. He hired Rachel’s attorney who filed the lawsuit demanding Sean and Elizabeth Canning pay an outstanding $5,306 Morris Catholic tuition bill, Rachel’s current living and transportation fees, and commit an existing college fund to her. The lawsuit also includes a request that Rachel’s parents pay their daughter’s legal fees, which so far total $12,597.
“We’re heartbroken, but what do you do when a child says, I don’t want your rules but I want everything under the sun and you to pay for it?'” Canning said, adding that Rachel’s college fund is available and has not been withdrawn or re-allocated as she alleged in the lawsuit. “We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. It’s killing me and my wife. We have a child we want home,” he said. “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.'”
On Facebook Rachel has said she’s been working at TGI Fridays while applying to various colleges. Her attorney says that a child turning 18 is not an automatic permission slip for parents to end financial support.
The bottom line here is that it doesn’t matter whether Rachel left on her own or her parents kicked her out. She’s an adult who can take care of herself. How anyone would think it’s legal to force parents to pay for a college tuition absolutely blows my mind. Even if money is specifically set aside for a child it doesn’t mean the kid is entitled to it. What if I set aside a huge chunk of change for my kid’s education and then lost my retirement fund? You can dang well bet I’m dipping into the college money to pay my mortgage.
You’ve got a job waitressing, now get a loan just like every other college kid in the country. Also, get a life.
What do you think? Does Rachel have a case or is she a spoiled brat? Does this make you think twice about telling your kid you have a college fund for them?
UPDATE: Apparently the judge assigned to the case agrees with me. As Good Morning America reports, a family court judge ruled that Rachel’s parents don’t have to pay her high school tuition — so round one goes to Sean and Elizabeth Canning. However, the judge delayed ruling on the biggest issue in the lawsuit: should the Cannings have to pay Rachel’s college tuition? He’s asking lawyers on the case whether it’s wise to “establish precedent where parents live in fear of establishing rules of the house.”
I should be a judge, right? That’s exactly what I said. There is no option but to toss out the case or else set a very dangerous parenting precedent.
The judge also denied her request for weekly allowance and additional financial support including attorney fees. The next hearing is scheduled for April 22.
Image courtesy of Flickr