Rachel Canning: Judge rules parents don’t have to pay university fees of daughter who tried to sue them

The Independent – by TIM WALKER , HEATHER SAUL

A New Jersey teenager who sued her parents for financial support after leaving home has lost the first round of her lawsuit. Cheerleader Rachel Canning, 18, sought $650 (£390) in weekly child support from her parents, the payment of the remainder of her tuition at her private high school, a fund for her future college tuition, and her lawyers’ fees.

At a family court hearing on Tuesday, Miss Canning was told her parents would not have to pay child support or her legal costs. The school has waived its fees until the case is settled. Judge Peter Bogaard warned that her suit could lead to a “slippery slope”, asking: “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?”  

Miss Canning claimed her parents threw her out in November 2013, when she turned 18, because they didn’t like her boyfriend. She said they refused to pay for her higher education, even after she received acceptance letters from several universities. In court filings, she alleged her parents were abusive, contributed to an eating disorder, and pushed her to get a basketball scholarship.

The Cannings, who have two other daughters, said they helped her through the eating disorder and paid for a private school where she would play less basketball than at a state-run school. 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 chores and ending a relationship with a boyfriend whom they believe is a bad influence.

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

“We love our child and miss her”, Mr Canning told New Jersey newspaper the Daily Record before the hearing. “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.’”

Miss Canning, who has been living with the family of her best friend, reportedly hopes to study biomedical engineering at the University of Vermont, which is thought to have offered her a scholarship worth $20,000 (£12,000). She still seeks a ruling to say she is non-emancipated from her parents, and that they therefore remain obligated to provide her with financial support. The case will return to court on 22 April.


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