Student, 18, sues parents for tuition

by Walter Olson on March 5, 2014

“A New Jersey couple does not have to pay — for now — for their 18-year-old daughter’s college education, a judge ruled Tuesday evening.” [CBS New York, ABC News, NY Daily News, AP]

{ 11 comments }

1 Ron Miller 03.05.14 at 11:46 am

This is an absolutely crazy story. I feel like there must be some back story we are missing. Why on earth would this guy file this case?

I’m the first one to jump on bad parenting and I’m more willing than 90% of the people here to support rules that trample on a parent’s right to be a bad parent. But there is no evidence here these are even bad parents. And the girl is 18.

Just crazy.

2 John Rohan 03.05.14 at 2:34 pm

I don’t agree that the parents should be forced to pay for a college education, BUT it was wrong for them to cut off her high school tuition in the middle of the year. She’s in the middle her senior year, and switching schools at this point would be cruel and disruptive. Do they really need to screw up their daughter’s entire future just to make a point?

3 Jazzizhep 03.05.14 at 4:57 pm

@John Rohan

I would imagine there are thousands of Americans, that were made to switch schools in the middle of their senior year, who would argue with your assertion that their entire future was screwed up as a result. And from the article, it appears the young Ms. Canning made the decision for herself: She either ran-away from home, or was kicked out because she would not follow her parents rules. Since the parents stated she could come at any time, it appears to be the former.

4 Darrell R 03.05.14 at 7:03 pm

I agree with the court that there’s no legal requirement for parents to provide support to their 18-year-old child (for living expenses or college).

That said, financial college aid applications / awards expect parents to provide an “expected contribution” based on the parents assets and income until the children are 23-ish. It’s not even possible to apply for most financial aid without parents cooperation (by providing the parents tax return information). Exceptions include getting married, having performed military service, or being emancipated from your parents prior to the 18th birthday.

So even if this 18-year-old gets a job to pay for college, without parental cooperation she’ll pay the inflated “list price” without significant financial aid.

My prediction for next year in overlawyered: emancipation claims for 18+ year olds.

5 Bumper 03.05.14 at 7:10 pm

I remember a case in the 60s where a court ordered the parents to pay for their child’s college education based on the fact that the parents were college educated and they could afford it. In the intervening years I have heard of similar ruling in child custody cases.

Update: Apparently this young lady was denied child support in the first round, but the judge put off a decision over college tuition.

6 Igor 03.05.14 at 7:44 pm

Well, silly me… My parents made it clear that I would follow their rules while under their roof. I guess I lived a life of duress while living there until the Vietnam War draft snatched me from a life of misery.
I’m sure my life would’ve been better if I “Did my own thing” as my peers were doing in the late 60’s/early 70’s…
*snort*

7 John Rohan 03.06.14 at 10:53 am

@Jazzizhep

Plenty of horrible things have happened to many people. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to repeat that here. She is an honors student, and has a good future ahead of her if her parents don’t derail that here. That is their prerogative, I suppose, but they will have to live with that decision. I am not excusing the girl’s actions. but she left their home, not her school.

8 asdfasdf 03.07.14 at 4:46 am

I don’t quite understand the parents logic that because the child was truant for a couple of days, they should refuse to pay the rest of her high school tuition. The parents action is more consistent with wanting to save money than wanting to help their child’s education.

I also don’t agree with the parent’s legal argument (although the judge bought it) that because the child was able to find charitable support for the rest of her high school tuition, the parents should not have to pay it.

Assuming the facts in the child’s complaint are correct, the parents make $300K/year, mostly from government pensions. The child works several jobs, so really, since the child (via her taxes) is already supporting the parents. Anyway, it’s hardly her fault that college tuition rates are so absurd now and that colleges expect wealthy parents to contribute.

9 Ron Miller 03.07.14 at 2:34 pm

We are getting a lot of pro-kid comments here. As we should. There is a version of these facts – if you accept them – that make the parents look awful. Still, going further and saying there is a legal obligation to pay is a leap few of us are willing to make.

10 Bumper 03.08.14 at 1:29 pm

In the final analysis I think the parents are guilty of extreme short sightness. No Doubt the cop in daddy has risen to the extreme, and no doubt teenager in the daughter has risen to a similar extreme, resulting the the current standoff. But in about ten years, when their now permanently estranged daughter gets married and has kids, mom is going to put a severe hurt on daddy’s butt when she is not welcome to visit the grandkids.

I am not taking sides here, but sometimes you just have to have your hissy fit and then consider all the facts, and get over it. I just guessing here but the dad was probably never a hostage negotiator.

11 gitarcarver 03.09.14 at 1:46 pm

In my opinion, there is a “villain” in this whole mess that is not being talked about much: the guy who is financing the lawsuit.

He has stepped in and financially empowered the teen to try and make her case that her parents, who gave her the best of everything and only demanded that she follow their rules for living in their household, were meanies.

While some here have said they support the teen, I have seen nothing to indicate that the parents have done anything wrong other than to lavish too much on their daughter.

It was she who walked out of the house, not the parents who kicked her out.

If the girl thinks she is above the rules at home (and apparently at school) what kind of citizen will she be as an adult?

No parent is perfect because there is no book on how to be a perfect parent. It is on the job training. But if we say that the parents are wrong for holding a child to a standard of conduct as well as following through with the idea that as an 18 year old, actions have consequences, what lesson is being taught the teen?

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