SHE’S THE LAW: Why Did The Judge Deny Teenager’s Request For College Tuition From Her Parents?

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rachel-canningYesterday, New Jersey Judge Peter Bogaard denied Rachel Canning’s request for emergency financial support and college tuition from her parents after allegedly voluntarily moving out of their Lincoln Park, New Jersey home when she turned 18. Another hearing is tentatively scheduled for April to hear other issues claimed in the lawsuit (i.e. – whether Canning left the home on her own accord).

Canning alleges that she had to leave her parent’s home due to emotional and psychological mistreatment, stating that, among other things, her mother called her “fat” and “porky” and that her father threatened to beat her. “I have been subjected to severe verbal and physical abuse by my mother and father,” Canning wrote in a court certification. “I am not willingly and voluntarily leaving a reasonable situation at home to make my own decisions. I had to leave to end the abuse.”

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According to the lawsuit, Canning requested that her parents pay the remaining tuition for her last semester of private school, her current living and transportation expenses, commit to paying her college tuition and pay her legal fees as she feels that she is unable to support herself financially. “I am a very good student. I have no drug problems. I am a good athlete. I work at a job outside of school,” Canning declared. “My parents simply will not help me any longer…[They] should be required to provide for my support and education until I can stand on my own two feet. In order to do this, I had to take legal action.” Since moving out because, according to her parents, Canning didn’t want to obey the rules of their home, she has been reportedly living with the parents of one of her classmates.

Judge Bogaard reportedly denied Canning’s request for immediate financial assistance because he didn’t see an emergency situation, and would make further decisions at the next hearing.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

Rachel filed the lawsuit to have the court deem her to be “unemancipated,” which will in turn make her parents responsible for her continued care and the expenses associated with keeping up with her current lifestyle and future plans. In New Jersey, emancipation is the legal act where a child is released from both the control and support of a parent. If a child is considered to be emancipated, the parents can no longer make decisions for them, and the child is no longer entitled to financial support from their parents. However, turning 18 in New Jersey does not automatically trigger emancipation, though it may provide the court with prima facie evidence or presumptive proof of emancipation. This presumption, however, may be defeated with evidence that the 18-year-old has not yet reached a truly independent status. As an example, a court may decide that, despite being 18 years of age, if the child is still in college and relies on parental support, or if there is proof of a pre-existing disability that prevents a child over the age of 18 from gaining complete independence, the parents are still responsible for that child.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?

If you have a child who may want to be emancipated from your care and responsibility, without your permission, before they turn 18 years of age, they must petition a court to do so and provide evidence that they are able to independently care for themselves, along with reasons as to why they would like to be on their own. The requirements for each state are different. Alternatively, as evidenced from this case, even if a child is 18 years of age, emancipation may not be automatic and a child may petition a court to be deemed “unemancipated.” Though the judge has issued an initial ruling denying Canning’s request for emergency support, further rulings and decisions are still open to be made after the April hearing.

Apparently, the parents have asked Canning to return home, which she has refused.

Pray for Rachel Canning, saints, because we ALL know this would not fly had we pulled a stunt like this with our parents.

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.

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