Did the New Jersey Teen’s Lawsuit Against Her Parents Ever Stand a Chance?

It’s now official – after the 18-year-old New Jersey high school student, Rachel Canning, moved back home last week, she reportedly went back to court today to formally dismiss her highly publicized lawsuit filed against her parents for financial support.

Rachel Canning had left the home where she lived with her parents and her siblings after reportedly refusing to abide by her parents’ rules and then sued her parents for private school and college tuition.

As a practicing New Jersey family law attorney, I just didn’t get it, for a number of reasons.  This case cut to the very heart of parents’ rights to make decisions they believe to be in their children’s best interests, which is likely the reason it made national and international headlines.

In fact, Rachel Canning’s sworn statement to the court in support of her lawsuit had aired private family matters for all the public to see.  Did an 18-year-old even have the maturity level to bring such a lawsuit against her parents?

In any event, starting a lawsuit against her parents could only have disastrous consequences for her relationship with them and her siblings for years to come.  Every action has a re-action and this re-action could very well have been irreparable.

The attorney for Rachel Canning’s parents got it right when he declared the case to be “without any legal merit” and “should not see the inside of a courtroom.”  As it is, there are no known legal cases in New Jersey that would support an 18 year old child from an intact family moving out and suing her parents for support.  Therefore, the parents’ attorney rightfully added that “Government cannot police the day-to-day financial affairs of parents and their children while the family is intact.”

When the family court judge denied the request for an emergency order filed by Rachel Canning’s attorney to require the  parents to pay financial support, he had reportedly observed “It does appear more energy has been utilized to tear up this family than to figure out how it can be brought back together.”

Let’s hope the Canning family can now move on from this highly public ordeal and repair any damage done.

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