A New Jersey student sued her parents after claiming they kicked her out of the house when she turned 18 years old and is forcing them to pay for her college education.
Private high school senior Rachel Canning, a cheerleader and lacrosse player who wants to go to college to become a biomedical engineer, filed a lawsuit last week in the Family Part of state Superior Court in Morristown that seeks a judge’s declaration that she is nonemancipated and dependent as a student on her parents for support.
Rachel Canning’s lawyer, Tanya N. Helfand, will ask that parents Sean and Elizabeth Canning, who haven’t paid an outstanding $5,306 Morris Catholic tuition bill, to settle that debt, pay Rachel’s current living and transportation expenses, then commit an existing college fund to their daughter, who has received acceptance letters from several universities.
Since she had been kicked out by her parents, Rachel has been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend and fellow student Jaime Inglesino, whose father is attorney and former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino. Inglesino is funding the lawsuit and hired attorney Helfand, who included in the lawsuit a request that the parents pay their daughter’s legal fees that so far total $12,597.
Rachel Canning filed the lawsuit in court that states her parents jointly decided on Oct. 29, 2013, that as of Nov. 1 — her 18th birthday — she would be cut off “from all support both financially and emotionally.” She said in her papers that Morris Catholic advised her not to return home and contacted the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency (known as DCP&P and formerly as DYFS) after Rachel alleged abuse.
“My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules,” Rachel said in her court papers. “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.”
“We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. 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,’ ” Sean Canning, a retired Lincoln Park police chief who currently works as Mt. Olive’s township administrator said.
The father said that he and his wife did stop paying the Morris Catholic tuition and have kept Rachel’s car because they paid for it. The father says Rachel moved out because she didn’t want to abide by their household rules — be respectful, keep a curfew, return “borrowed” items to her two sisters, manage a few chores, and reconsider or end her relationship with a boyfriend the parents believe is a bad influence.
“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 his daughter’s college fund is available to her and not withdrawn or re-allocated, as she has alleged.
A hearing was set for Tuesday.