Fuhgeddaboudit: New Jersey Judge Rules Against Teenager In Effort To Force Parents To Pay For College

article-2572711-1C07EFB400000578-224_634x612New Jersey Judge Peter Bogaard has rejected the initial effort of Rachel Canning, 18, to force her parents to pay for her financial support and college. Retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife, Elizabeth, insist that she moved out of their house voluntarily after she refused to live according to the rules of the house, including speaking respectfully to them, taking a curfew, reconsidering a relationship with a boyfriend (viewed as a bad influence) and doing chores. She said that they kicked her out as soon as she turned 18. However, the problem is that she is indeed 18 and the idea of forcing parents to pay for schooling after the age of majority is a problematic one. She has accused her father of being “inappropriately affectionate” but an investigation reportedly cleared Sean Canning (shown here with Rachel).

Rachel wants to be declared non-emancipated. It is a novel twist on the occasional case where a minor seeks emancipation from her parents. Here the child wants to reverse emancipation to force them to pay for her high school education and college. She is currently living with the family of a friend. The first time she saw her parents in five months was in the courtroom.

article-0-1C020A8D00000578-230_634x837The involvement of the other family is interesting. Rachel Canning’s lawyer, Tanya N. Helfand, was brought into the case by the father of her best friend and fellow student Jaime Inglesino. John Inglesino is an attorney and hired Helfand. However, the lawsuit is seeking to force the Cannings to pay Helfand’s legal fees, which were previously estimated at $12,597.

While seeking non-emancipation, she remains not too fond of the parents who she accuses of abuse, triggering her eating disorder, and trying to force her into a basketball scholarship. Her lawyer accused the parents of painting the “most disgusting picture of their daughter” to avoid paying her tuition.

The judge however cited the “slippery slope” that would be created by “a precedent where parents live in constant fear of enforcing the basic rules of the house. If they set a rule a child doesn’t like, the child can move out, move in with another family, seek child support, cars, cell phone and a few hundred grand to go to college. . . . 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?”

The last concern is not the most pressing in my view. The problem is that fact that she is 18. The New Jersey code declares that a person who attains the age of eighteen years is an adult. N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3 provides in pertinent part:

Every person eighteen (18) or more years of age shall in all other matters and for all other purposes be deemed to be an adult and, notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, shall have the same legal capacity to act and the same powers and obligations as a person 21 or more years of age.

Likewise, N.J.S.A. 9:17B-1 states:

The Legislature finds and declares and by this Act intends, pending the revision or amendment of the many statutory provisions involved, to:

a. Extend to persons 18 years of age and older the basic civil and contractual rights and obligations heretofore applicable only to persons 21 years of age or older, including the right to contract, sue, be sued and defend civil actions, apply for and be appointed [***8] to public employment, apply for and be granted a license or authority to engage in a business or profession subject to State regulation, serve on juries, marry, adopt children, attend and participate in horserace meetings and pari-mutuel betting and other legalized games and gaming, except as otherwise provided in subsection c. of this section, sell alcoholic beverages, act as an incorporator, registered agent, or director of a corporation, consent to medical and surgical treatment, execute a Will, and to inherit, purchase, mortgage or otherwise encumber and convey real and personal property.

She is now past the age of majority and the support of her parents is now a matter of discretion and consent. However, there are cases where children above the age of 18 have sought to force the payment of tuition and one court noted that: “A child’s admittance and attendance at college will overcome the rebuttable presumption that a child may be emancipated at age 18.”

Some cases have found that a child remains under the “sphere of influence” of their parents may be considered unemancipated for child support and/or college contribution purposes. See Gac v. Gac, 186 N.J. 535, 897 A.2d 1018 (2006). In
Gac, a custodial parent for the non-custodial parent to continue paying child support and college contribution. The court held:

In general, a parent’s responsibility to pay child support terminates when the child is emancipated. We noted in Newburgh that emancipation can occur upon the child’s marriage, on induction into military service by Court Order based on the child’s best interests, or by attainment of appropriate age. The facts of each case will control when a child is emancipated. Although there is no fixed age when emancipation occurs, N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3 provides that when a person reaches eighteen years of age, he or she shall be deemed an adult.

In this case, Rachel allegedly moved out on her own volition and reportedly has a $20,000 and would like to go to the University of Vermont to study towards becoming a biomedical engineer.

While non-emancipation appears a dead letter, the court will allow Rachel to argue that that the Cannings are obligated to financially support their daughter. A hearing is scheduled for April 22nd.

That would include the payment of the remained of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School, where she is a senior. Her parents paid tuition through Dec. 31st.

What do you think? Should the parents be required to pay for the rest of high school and/or college?

60 thoughts on “Fuhgeddaboudit: New Jersey Judge Rules Against Teenager In Effort To Force Parents To Pay For College”

  1. according to news this am she has moved back into parents home and yet the case against parents still ongoing. (Although evidently a petition for emergency financial relief to her was denied)

  2. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding this case and its potential implications. This much to me is clear: Judge Boggard’s decision and reasoning behind denying Rachel Canning’s initial request for immediate financial support from her parents was prudent. Any decision other than the one the judge made would have opened the floodgates for children to move out of their parents’ homes and then sue for financial support.

  3. Considering this is a website run by a lawyer who believes in the importance of cross-examining testimony under oath, I find it shocking and sad that so many posters here “know” who is wrong and who is right in this family.

    Clue: You don’t KNOW; you’re just full of opinions based on your own experiences and prejudices. I just hope none of you are actual judges with the ability to ruin lives.

  4. I wonder how much later it was that the back and forth over rules took place after the charges were dropped against her father. It seems there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides.

  5. anniewi why are you so staunchly defending this BRAT? and yes i said brat. this child said her father was inapriopriately affectionate, said he woke her up in the middle of the night to play beer pong games, said her mother called her fat and porky.. which to me smacks of games and shenighans she and her friends got up to in sleep overs. SHE FREELY LEFT THEIR HOME. she doesnt need to be emancipated at 18 she can move out which she did, she can get married without her parents permission, etc… she even got caught trying to make up a fake dating profile in her fathers name to come between the parents… this brat is spoiled and maybe the courts needs to check out the relationship between her and mr inglesino what father of a daughter would encourage the daughter of another man to take the steps she is?

    yea there is definitely not something right with that relationship…. its hilarious how a man thinks its alright to exploit a woman but is willing to kill the man who does it to his daughter……

    she wanted to be grown well like i told my kids when escorting them to the other side of the door… you don’t get to be grown half way.. you declare you’re grown then its all the way or nothing……. adios i promptly moved to a smaller place and changed my numbers and even though we are back speaking to a degree these days.. they still arent allowed to move back into my home….

  6. I attended 4 years of under graduate and 3 years of law school without a dime from my parents. It’s the old fashion way “I worked”.

  7. Carlyle Moulton

    Most of the other comments on this thread surprise me by the level of prejudice towards 18 year olds that they display.
    I don’t see prejudice against 18-year-olds here. I see people taking offense at the sheer gall of this particular 18-year-old. I agree with the poster who said that something went wrong in this family a long time ago, but something goes wrong in a lot of families. They work it out.

    I think this case touched a nerve with people. This society has become so child centered that we are producing adults who can’t cope with the real world. Just ask any college administration.

    I’m not even the law and order type when it comes to children. I think you should pick your battles and that those battles should be very few. Foremost, insist on honesty, kindness and consideration of others. In other words, don’t raise a brat.

    I actually happen to think the parents were overreaching in insisting she ditch the boyfriend, unless he was a convicted criminal or a sociopath of course, but they shouldn’t have to pay through the nose for it.

  8. If you have a kid and consider college then consider this. Private school: too much unless the 18 year old can get a full scholarship. Send to Community College. Two years of good performance with all courses transferable to state four year school. Establish residency in that state first. If student did well, consider grad school. Help out at that level. Otherwise: 18, up and out. Create a business in your own life and bring the offspring into it. That is a financial future.

  9. Ungrateful child! In most third world countries a child is very grateful if her parents can afford to let her finish her high schooling. Others are out of school & working at ten or eleven.

  10. What firefly & Don De Drain said.

    From our position as observers it is not possible to determine which story is the truth and which a pack of lies or alternatively which is mostly true and which mostly false. It is essentially a case of he said she said and we have no information to corroborate either story. In this situation I think that the judge made the best default decision possible.

    Most of the other comments on this thread surprise me by the level of prejudice towards 18 year olds that they display.

  11. It goes without saying that the baby boomers all are looking at Rachel Canning with the years of life experience and education behind us If everyone who had a sad tale of parent estrangement could teach childtren and students through CD’s there would be no childish adolescence “failures ” to show our mature smugness to .

    It’ll be difficult for Rachel Canning but not impossible to achieve a normal life, even if she’s emotionally able to finish her studies to a meaningful career. I wish her well and I hope there are fewer abusive and distorted relationships for her to attain happiness .
    The book isn’t closed on an 18 year old ‘s life just because she made odd choices .

  12. It goes on to say,

    “If you do not meet any of those criteria, you are required to report parental information on your FAFSA, meaning you are classified as a dependent student.

    In unusual circumstances, a student who does not meet any of these criteria may still be considered an independent student if a compelling case can be made to override the dependent student status. This can only be done by a qualified financial aid officer and is very rare.”

    Exceptional circumstances include but are not limited to the following:
    Your last surviving parent died after you first applied for financial aid.
    You and your parents have been separated and you have been granted refugee status by the U.S. Immigration Service.
    Neither of these circumstances automatically qualifies you as an independent student instead of a dependent student. All circumstances must be reliably documented before consideration. If you believe your circumstances merit one of these exceptions, please see a financial aid counselor at the school you attend, have been admitted to, or the schools you intend to apply to in the future.

    Also, in unusual circumstances, a student may be able to make a compelling case for their inability to provide the necessary information on the FAFSA, which may in turn allow you to qualify as an independent student as opposed to a dependent student. Such examples are:

    The parents reside in a location where mail delivery does not exist.
    The parent is mentally handicapped.
    The student suffered documentable parental abuse and contact with the parent would put the student in danger.
    The student was abandoned by parents.
    Both parents are incarcerated or institutionalized.
    Both parents lack the physical or mental capacity to raise the child.
    The parents’ whereabouts are unknown or the parents cannot be located.
    The parents are hospitalized for an extended period.
    The student was living in an unsuitable household (e.g., child removed from the household and placed in foster care).
    A married student’s spouse dies or student gets divorced.
    If any of these are the case, please contact the financial aid office at your school or schools you plan on applying to.

    The following DO NOT qualify you as an independent student:
    The student has been supporting his/herself for a period of time.
    The student has been supported by other relatives or friends for a period time.
    The student does not live with his/her parents.
    The student is angry with his/her parents and wishes not to speak to them.
    The parents are able but unwilling to provide their information.
    The parents are living in another country.
    The parents refuse to contribute to the student’s education.
    The parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.”

  13. Independent student criteria.

    “You are working on a degree beyond a bachelor’s, such as a master’s or doctorate
    You have a child or children, or other legal dependents, who receive more than half their financial support from you
    You are married (or separated but not divorced)
    You are at least 24 years old
    You are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces
    You are currently serving on active duty in the Armed Forces for other than training purposes
    If, at any time since you turned 13, both your parents were deceased, your were in foster care, or were a ward of the court
    You are an emancipated child as determined by a court judge
    You are homeless or at risk of homelessness as determined by the director of a HUD approved homeless shelter, transitional program, or high school liaison”

  14. Jude, she needs to be LEGALLY emancipated on order to not have to use her parent’s financial info. I understand that she would need to use her parents info to get financial aid until age 25, UNLESS she is legally emancated. Am I wrong? Any lawyers here know if I’m understanding this? Jude was perhaps all that paperwork you filled out was emancipation papers?

  15. annieofwi – that’s not true. I lived on my own and claimed myself on my own taxes and still needed their info. I had to go through an entire process to finally get rid of their info, some of which included getting them to fill out extensive paperwork. It took over 4 months to complete this, and I could simply drive down the street and knock on their door whenever I needed them to do anything. If there has been a falling out, how will that work?

  16. And Don, God bless you for raising an autistic child into this tough world.

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