By Joshua Gardner
3 March 2014
A New Jersey high school cheerleader who claims she was ‘abandoned’ by her mother and retired police chief father when they kicked her out for not playing by their rules filed a lawsuit last week demanding they fork over immediate financial support.
Rachel Canning has turned 18 but the rare lawsuit aims to force her parents to support her even though she’s living with a friend’s family who are shelling out thousands for her attorney fees.
Meanwhile, Sean Canning has shot back saying his college-bound daughter is nothing but a ‘spoiled’ liar who left home on her own when she couldn’t live by the former officer’s rules.
While her exact reason for leaving remains foggy, neither side in the Morris County, New Jersey suit is refuting that Rachel left her home in comfortable Lincoln Park sometime on or near her 18th birthday on November 1.
Rachel, who’s already received acceptance letters to several universities and a $20,000 scholarship offer from a New York private college, claims she was forced out of her home on her birthday after her father and mother Amy jointly decided to cut her off ‘from all support both financially and emotionally.’
‘My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules,’ court papers filed on behalf of the teen claim. ‘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.’
According to DailyRecord.com, Sean and Amy Canning owe Morris Catholic $5,306 in tuition they’ve neglected to pay since the start of the family feud.
And it’s not just because of their missing money that school administrators appear to be backing Rachel.
‘Rachel has excellent grades and will not be removed from the school for this non-payment; however her parents do have a contractual obligation to pay. Rachel is certainly unable at this time to attend Morris Catholic High School full-time and support herself financially,’ Morris Catholic president Michael St. Pierre wrote in a certification to the court.
St. Pierre said the school called New Jersey Child Protection and Permanency last fall after abuse allegations from Rachel and what he called ‘difficult meetings between Rachel and Mr. Canning.’
Mr. Canning admits a state worker visited the home just prior to Rachel’s alleged ‘abandonment,’ but that the official found the teen simply to be ‘spoiled’ and didn’t pursue the abuse allegations.
‘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,”’ Mr. Canning said.
Mr. Canning contends that his daughter left on her own accord because she was simply unwilling to follow his demands she be respectful, do her chores, and give back some of her sister’s borrowed belongings.
‘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?”’
He admits that he’s stopped paying Rachel’s high school tuition but says she’ll receive her existing college fund.
But that’s just not enough, says John Inglesino, an attorney and former local city official whose already paid $12,597 for Rachel’s lawyer Tanya N. Helfand, who claims his daughter friend is ‘emotionally distraught by her parents’ sudden rejection of her.’
‘Rachel is likeable, communicates exceptionally well and is highly motivated to attend and excel at a college appropriate for her. That is why my wife and I have decided to fund this lawsuit. We know that if Mr. and Mrs. Canning are not required to fulfil their legal obligations as parents, that Rachel’s ability to fulfil her potential will be greatly diminished,’ Inglesino wrote to the court.
Rachel is demanding her parents pay her college tuition and expenses, transportation costs, cover her current high school tuition and even pay her legal fees.
Her attorney’s argument that these are all reasonable demands spin solely on the fact that 18-year-old Rachel, who says she wants to study biomedical engineering, will be a student.
Helfand says her client has not ‘moved beyond (her parents’) sphere of influence’ and per New Jersey law may be deemed non-emancipated.
‘A child’s admittance and attendance at college will overcome the rebuttable presumption that a child may be emancipated at age 18,’ reads an earlier state court decision.
But the attorney for Mr. and Mrs. Canning Laurie Rush-Masuret is claiming Rachel removed herself from that ‘sphere of influence’ when she voluntary left her parents’ home.
Family law attorneys Sheldon Simon disagrees.
‘A child is not emancipated until they’re on their own…Even if a child and the parents don’t get along that doesn’t relieve the parents of their responsibility,’ Simon told the DailyRecord.
Simon said he’s never seen anything like the lawsuit in 40 years of practice.
Judge Peter Bogaard has scheduled a the first court hearing for Tuesday in Morristown, Pennsylvania.