Can a child make their parents pay?

The Curious Case of Rachel Canning

In early March 2014, an 18 year-old New Jersey native, Rachel Canning, brought suit against her parents in order to compel them to pay for her private school tuition and future college costs.

According to official reports, Rachel had left home after refusing to abide by the “rules of the house” as laid down by her parents, Sean and Elizabeth. Her parents alleged that Rachel refused do chores, respect her curfew, and end a relationship with a boyfriend who the parents felt was a bad influence. In response to their daughter’s behavior, the Cannings promptly stopped financially supporting their daughter, including paying for Rachel’s private Catholic school tuition.

Following the withdrawal of financial support by her parents, Rachel filed suit seeking $654 a week for child support, $5,306 to cover her tuition bill, and an additional $12,597 to pay for her pending legal fees. Additionally, Rachel sought to have the court order her parents to pay for her future college education.

At the unprecedented hearing, the judge promptly dismissed the bulk of Rachel’s suit citing the fact that it could create a bad precedent that would greatly infringe upon the parenting rights of parents.

While, the judge dismissed most of Rachel’s case, he did schedule a hearing for April 2014 to decide whether or not her parents are required to pay for her tuition.

In the interim, the parents have been directed to keep Rachel on their health insurance and to maintain the “status quo” regarding her college accounts.

At the time of this article, Rachel has returned home but several questions still remain.

May parents be obligated to pay for college expenses of their children where the children have reached the age of majority?

Additionally, are there any constitutional rights in play?

Does a child have a constitutional right to have able parents pay for their college education?

If they do, how is that right balanced with that of the parents’ right to police their household? How would this be treated in a Florida Court?

These are tough questions and this case forces us to consider them.

So we have looked at the question of Can a Child make their parents pay? and as of March 2014, it is still unclear.


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