Judge denies teen's request to force parents to pay tuition


A teen's plan to sue her parents to force them to pay for college tuition has hit a snag. A New Jersey judge denied 18-year-old Rachel Canning's request for financial assistance.  

Canning says she moved out of her parents home because of verbal abuse and said her parents should pay for her private high school, living expenses and college tuition. 

The hearing this week was the first time Sean and Elizabeth Canning had seen their daughter Rachel in months. The broken family was briefly reunited in Morris County Court in a hearing about whether the parents should be forced to pay her high school and college tuition.

"She has essentially emancipated herself," the parents' lawyer argued.

In court filings, Rachel Canning says her parents make upwards of $300,000 a year and are able to pay for her private high school and college.

But she says she had to leave their Lincoln Park home to escape what she calls 'years of abuse' which she describes in court filings: "My father gave me a sense he was inappropriately affectionate with me. He once woke me up at 2 am to come downstairs to drink and play beer pong with him. My mother was always demeaning towards me. She called me ‘fat' and ‘porky.'"

Sean Canning, retired Lincoln Park Police Chief, and his wife Elizabeth Canning have denied the allegations.

The couple says their daughter refused to abide by a curfew and was caught drinking alcohol. They also say she was disrespectful, producing evidence of a voicemail left over the summer by Rachel to her mother: "Hi Mom, just to let you know you're a real (expletive) winner. I (expletive) hate you and I've written you off so don't talk to me... have a nice life, bye Mom."

"Have you ever seen such gross disrespect to a parent?" the judge asked.

Both sides agree the situation reached the boiling point in October, when Rachel was suspended from Morris Catholic High School for cutting class.

Her parents took away her car and her cell phone and forbade her to see her boyfriend. Depending on who you ask, Rachel ran away or was kicked out. She has been living with a friend's family ever since. The judge seemed to side with the Canning parents:

"I don't think it's the courts province to step in, absent evidence of abuse or neglect, not the court position to tell the father how best to discipline."

An attorney for the Canning parents suggested in court filings that this case would have a chilling effect on parents' ability to discipline their dependent teenaged children:

"To permit such conduct by a rebellious teenager towards her parents, and then in turn to compel those parents to support the very same person who created the havoc, this undermining all ability to parent, is just outrageous," the attorney argued.

The family court judge denied Rachel's request to have her parents temporarily resume paying her tuition and living expenses.

Another hearing date has been set for next month.

Rachel Canning has been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend. The newspaper reports that the friend's father is funding the lawsuit.