18-Year-Old Sues Parents for College Money

Here’s a mind-boggling case from the Morris County Courthouse in New Jersey, according to Bill Chappell at NPR’s The Two-Way:

An 18-year-old honor roll student named Rachel Canning is suing her parents for financial support and money for college after being kicked out of the house for behavioral issues (“one or two school suspensions, drinking, losing her captaincy on the cheerleading squad and being kicked out of the campus ministry”). Canning says her parents abandoned her and is currently living with her best friend, Jaime Inglesino, whose father is an attorney and is helping Canning sue her parents. Canning’s requests were denied by a judge in the first round of hearings in the case.

In late December, Canning’s parents’ attorney wrote a letter stating that the parents would continue to pay for Rachel’s health insurance and saying she is entitled to money from a college fund they created, reports the The Star-Ledger.

“I know Rachel is a) a good kid, b) an incredibly rebellious teen, and she’s getting some terrible information,” Sean Canning told CBS 2.

He told the TV station that his daughter left home in November. The Canning household isn’t a strict one, he said, noting that curfew is often after 11 p.m. Several local media outlets have reported that the Cannings did not approve of their daughter’s boyfriend, whom the Daily Record has identified as a fellow senior at Morris Catholic.

The judge in the case, Superior Court Family Division Judge Peter Bogaard, said it would set a bad precedent “in which children can flout their parents’ rules and then demand money from them” if the court found legitimacy in Rachel Canning’s requests. Sorry Rachel, but it’s time for you to figure out how to pay your own way.

Also I want to know how the other adult in this story—John Inglesino, who has been helping Rachel with her case against her parents—feels about why he thinks this case has legs.

Photo: Zager Family

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

Ms. Canning could also just contact colleges and inquire about their procedures for proving a lack of parental support – every college has such a procedure, since children being raised by single parents frequently run into trouble completing financial aid applications when they can’t get in touch or get cooperation from the non-custodial parent. (Children with no supporting parent can also do this – as a legal aid lawyer, I used to help poor children with this process.) The fundamental problem with her lawsuit is that courts will rarely direct individuals to do something they’re not legally required to do. Since Ms. Canning is 18, her parents have no legal obligation to her.

EDaily (#4,396)

@Josh Michtom@facebook But there isn’t a lack right? The article says that her parents say that “she is entitled to money from a college fund they created”

@EDaily I wonder. I mean, they have the fund, but maybe that doesn’t cover everything, since college costs such an absurd amount of money now. Part of me wonders whether this whole lawsuit isn’t just a strategy to convince colleges that this girl is estranged from her parents to the degree that she should get financial aid without reference to their income.

guenna77 (#856)

@Josh Michtom@facebook no… it really seems, honest to god, that she’s just a spoiled brat who didn’t want to follow any rules so she left and went to her friend’s house. her parents didn’t “kick her out.”

here’s my guess at what happened. they said – as my own did – ‘if you want to live under our roof and have your life financed by us, then you follow our [very seemingly reasonable] rules’. and she probably stuck her tongue out at them and left, butthurt and acting like she was ‘kicked out’. it probably would have blown over, but then over at her friends house she was probably bitching about it and the friend’s dad said, haha, i bet i could get you the money anyway, let’s sue them. and so now we have this.

scn231 (#1,705)

Maybe if the college fund was set up in her name somehow?

A college education is a privilege not a right. I was reading about this last night. In NJ if a student is accepted into college, parents still have a legal obligation to the child even if they are older then 18. But then I think about what happens when the parents can’t even afford college. In NY child support goes till your 21, does this mean children can sue for things their parents don’t even have?

Rachel is definitely being led astray by her friends lawyer father. He isn’t representing her and when she loses her case she’s the one stuck with 20K (she’s already 12K+ in the hole) to pay back. Which she would have anyway if she took out loans for school. I’m going to be paying attention to this case to see what happens.

@TheDoctorsCompanion I should have been clear that I was talking about Connecticut, where I live and work. I totally agree that she’s being led astray by the friend’s dad. I mean, suing one’s parents is the sort of thing that teenagers naturally want to do (I definitely would have sought an injunction to keep my dad from moving me from Brooklyn to Portland, OR, when I was 12!), but grown folks are supposed to know better!

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

@TheDoctorsCompanion “But then I think about what happens when the parents can’t even afford college. In NY child support goes till your 21, does this mean children can sue for things their parents don’t even have?”

That’s a different issue, because if your parents are willing to fill out a FAFSA and can’t pay, then you’re eligible for need-based student aid. The issue is for students whose parents could pay but won’t. Except in very limited circumstances, the parents’ income is still taken into account for financial aid purposes and those students aren’t eligible for need-based aid until they’re 24. The reason that the financial aid system works this way is that a whole lot of parents would refuse to pay otherwise, but it does mean that some students end up completely SOL. And this is not an especially egregious example of that phenomenon. Some parents refuse to pay for college because their kid comes out of the closet or starts going to the wrong church.

aetataureate (#1,310)

She’s been kicked out of a campus religious group, removed from a captain position, and suspended “once or twice,” but is still an honor roll student? Say what?

But her parents kicked her out after this few offenses that are this minor?? Ugh, everybody just stop having kids please

squishycat (#3,000)

@aetataureate Last I checked, the only thing you actually needed to be on the honor roll was the requisite GPA.

katiekate (#1,051)

@squishycat Also, depending on the issue, getting suspended a couple times is not a huge deal. Sounds like she’s going through a really tough time and has a lot of shitty influences around her – adult and youth.

sarahsayssoo (#4,237)

According to another article I read about this, one of the things she is using for is for her parents to pay for the rest of her high school education. Her parents likely do have a legal responsibility to pay that as I’m sure they signed a contract but she shouldn’t be party to that suit. It should come from the school

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