Child Support or Adult Support? High School Senior Denied Financial Support by Judge

by Dru Hunsaker

High school senior Rachel Canning was recently noted in several media outlets for an unlikely lawsuit in which she sued her parents for financial support, including tuition for her final year of private school and eventual college expenses. Canning, an 18-year-old honor student at Morris Catholic High School in New Jersey, stipulated that she left home after suffering verbal and physical abuse by her parents, while her parents counter that she willingly left home so that she would not have to obey their rules.

During her first hearing for the suit, Judge Peter Bogaard immediately denied that she receive financial compensation for her current living expenses, but will hear her other complaints, including the nature of her departure from her home, during a hearing in April. Though Canning is legally an adult, New Jersey law holds that a child is not emancipated until they are beyond the realm of parental control. Canning hopes that the courts will declare her un-emancipated, meaning that her parents still have financial responsibility for her, and that they will be forced to reimburse the parents of the friend who is currently hosting her and paying her legal fees.

An investigation into the allegations of abuse indicate that no such abuse occurred in the Canning household; however, Canning maintains that her departure was involuntary. Canning’s parents claim that she was previously suspended for truancy, at which point they confiscated her car and cell phone, as well as forbidding her to see her similarly suspended boyfriend. They insist that their suspension of privileges was the reason for her departure and that they have asked her to return home.

Canning will continue at Morris Catholic High School because of her status as an honor student and the school’s willingness to raise the tuition for her to continue. Despite this, Canning maintains that it is her parents’ responsibility to meet her demands for college expenses, insisting that “[They] should be required to provide for [her] support and education until [she] can stand on [her] own two feet.”

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