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Student Suing Parents Loses 1st Round, but Case Isn't Over

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A New Jersey teenager lost her first battle in a lawsuit against her parents over college tuition, but she hasn't lost the war.

Rachel Canning, 18, filed suit in state court alleging that her parents had abandoned her, and wants the court to order them to pay for her private high school and college tution, New York City's WCBS-TV reports.

The judge denied Rachel's "emergency request" for now, but what lies ahead for her and her parents?

Runaway Wants Monthly Support and Tuition Money

According to WCBS, Rachel Canning's attorney told the court that the teenager had been living with another family for four months, and during that time, her parents had not made contact with her or sent her any money.

Parents who leave their children in the care of other adults for an extended period of time (often more than three months) without providing communication or child support can sometimes be found to have criminally abandoned their children.

The Cannings claim that Rachel ran away from their home in October, CNN reports. They say it was not because of any abuse or neglect, as Rachel claims, but because they had suspended her car, phone, and boyfriend privileges as punishment for being suspended from school.

Rachel attends Morris Catholic High School in Denville, New Jersey, and requested that the court order her parents to pay for her last semester at the private high school as well as provide for her college tuition. According to WCBS, Judge Peter Bogaard denied Rachel's emergency request for "$600 a month in support" and high school tuition, but agreed to revisit the issue of college tuition in April.

Is Rachel Still Owed Support?

Although support obligations to children usually end when a child turns 18, in New Jersey, child support may continue if the child isn't financially independent. According to the New Jersey Department of Human Services, New Jersey courts presume children under age 18 still require support from their parents, but children 18 and above may still receive support "through college or longer."

This is why Rachel is fighting to have the New Jersey court declare her "unemancipated," as parents owe no support obligation to emancipated children.

Judge Bogaard, however, worries that granting Rachel's request would set a poor precedent for children who refuse to follow "basic rules of the house," reports WCBS.

Whether or not Rachel receives her tuition money, seems like the Cannings will still have many issues to resolve.

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