A family court judge denied a request by Rachel Canning of Lincoln
Park, New Jersey, to have her parents temporarily resume paying her
tuition and living expenses. He set another hearing date for next
Canning, 18, wants her parents to pay the remaining $5,000 in
tuition owed to the Morris Catholic High School, where she is a
senior, and she wants access to a college fund that was set up for
The cheerleader and lacrosse player claims her parents kicked her
out of the house in November 2013 after she turned 18, the age of
legal adulthood. She wound up living with a friend's family, she
said, and the upheaval has jeopardized her educational future.
Judge Peter Bogaard rejected her request for a temporary payout of
about $600 a month in support as well as tuition for her private
high school, which has waived fees while the case is settled.
In court, the teen said her parents remain obligated to help her
with food, transportation, high school tuition and her college
She filed the lawsuit last week claiming that she is still dependent
on them for support because she is still in school and not yet
legally emancipated under state law.
"They left her high and dry because they didn't want to pay,"
attorney Tanya Helfand told the court. "Now at the age of 18 is not
the point to do this."
Her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, said their daughter left
home voluntarily, telling the court that she had severe behavioral
problems, including underage drinking, and had been suspended from
In court papers, they said she did not want to follow the rules of
the house that included doing chores and a curfew.
In New Jersey, emancipation is not contingent on becoming a legal
adult at age 18 but instead requires a young person to obtain "an
independent status on his or her own" — such as graduation from
college, obtainment of employment or marriage.
[to top of second column]
Family law experts in New Jersey say Canning's case might set legal
parameters on whether non-divorced parents in the state are
obligated to pay for their children's college education and provide
other financial support after the child has left home.
New Jersey is one of several states that require divorced parents to
pay for their children's education through college, or legal
emancipation, said William Laufer, a family law expert in New
Jersey. So far, there is no parallel decision for intact families.
"This case is certainly unique," Laufer said. "The question is, a
kid at the age of 18 says he or she is moving out of the house — do
parents have a legal obligation to support their kids until
An attorney for Canning's parents said in court that she was welcome
to return home and under the financial care of her parents, should
she abide by house rules.
"She can come home tonight. There is no abuse. There is no neglect,"
attorney Laurie Rush-Masuret said.
Sean Canning, a former police chief in Lincoln Park, told local
television station WCBS-TV on Monday he was "dumbfounded" that he
was being sued by one of his three daughters.
He called Rachel "rebellious" and said her college fund was not in
"We have a college that's available to her — there's no doubt about
that. But it's the equivalent ... of going shopping at a high-end
store and sending somebody the bill," he told the station.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Morristown, New Jersey;
by Ellen Wulfhorst, Barbara Goldberg, Gunna Dickson and Lisa
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.