Education, Personal Finance, Relationships

Are Parents Responsible for Paying for College? Teen Sues Parents Who Won’t Pay

can teens sue their parents for the cost of college
You knew that it was just a matter of time before something like this happened, but it’s still a bit hard to believe. Rachel Canning, an 18 year-old girl from New Jersey is suing her parents saying that they kicked her out of the house at 18, and they are refusing to pay for her private high school and college education. She’s demanding the following:

  • Her parents pay the remaining tuition for her private high school
  • Her parents pay both her transportation and living expenses for the foreseeable future
  • Her parents turn over her existing college fund to pay for her college education
  • Her parents pay all of her legal bills

The judge has already denied the teen her request for high school tuition and her current living expenses. There is a court date hearing set for April that will take up the question of whether or not the parents must pay for the college costs. As would be expected, both sides have quite different views about what’s going on. These are the basic arguments from both sides in the case:

The Teen

Rachel Canning claims that she was kicked out of the house at 18 even though she is a cheerleader and honors student, in part because her parents didn’t like her boyfriend. She also alleges that they have been abusive toward her. Without the money from her parents, she won’t have the means to attend college where she hopes to study biomedical engineering.

The Parents

Sean and Elizabeth Canning claim that their daughter wasn’t kicked out of the house, but she chose to leave in October because she didn’t like to live by the rules that they had implemented. This included missing curfews and getting suspended from school.

Not surprisingly, this is how the judge reacted to the case:

So the question becomes, are children entitled to a college degree paid for by their parents? Is a college education the responsibility of the parents in this day and age? Or is this a situation where some kids continue to be self-indulgent when they become adults and refuse to take the responsibility that they need to take?

Another question that will surely be debated in this case is who is to blame? This can readily be seen in the video clip where the lawyer argues that it’s the parents who have created the atmosphere for all this to happen. Is the teen simply spoiled on her own accord in believing that she is deserving of this, or are the parents partially to blame since they played a part in instilling these feelings while she was growing up?

What is your opinion? Once teens hit 18 and become legal adults, are they on their own, or do parents still have some financial responsibilities even after their kids become legal adults? Since the family set up a college fund for her, does that money have to be spent on her college, or can the parents decide to not give it if they change their mind? If the child was told that she would have this college money and it still exists, does she have a reasonable expectation that she should get it?

19 thoughts on “Are Parents Responsible for Paying for College? Teen Sues Parents Who Won’t Pay

  1. The first inclination is to entirely blame the teen for being so ridiculous, but I think the parents do hold some responsibility in this situation. There is a reason that their daughter thinks this way. Still, it was good of them to finally put their foot down so that she can learn the realities of life. They just should have done it a lot sooner.

  2. My folks sent 5 of 7 children through college. My brother and I knew full well that our parents couldn’t help us the same way.
    Suing your parents ?!?!?
    What an asinine concept.

  3. If the parents told the child that she has a college fund, that the money was being set aside for it, and it’s still there, I think they have the responsibility to use it for her college. It’s a verbal contract. That doesn’t mean that they give the money to the teen to spend, but pay it directly to the college when she enrolls.

  4. I think the judge should order the parents to pay the full sum of college + whatever tuition is owed to the high school……but instead of the money going to their daughter, it should go to a local homeless shelter.

    And that spoiled kid should get nothing and have to pay for her own legal fees.

    Then both parties will be screwed and a lesson will be taught about wasting the justice department’s time and what greed and selfishness cause when unchecked.

  5. Bad parenting all the way around. It astonishes me the privilege that so many people feel they are entitled to these days. My parents helped me with my college, but I knew that they didn’t have to and that they couldn’t afford to pay for all of it. I was thankful for any help they could give. This just makes me sad.

  6. This family has some major issues and it’s hard to judge without knowing all the details. On the surface, this girl seems to be a self-indulgent entitled brat, but there could be more to the story than we know.

  7. I’m surprised the judge didn’t send both the kid and her parents to their rooms. That what they all need.

  8. Daddy used to get me drunk, kiss me, turned me into an emotional wreck bulimic??  

    Does the story get any more diabolical? Then the parents refuting that none of this true, and that the daughter tried to set her father up with a new woman and that she was breaking curfews, hanging out with her boyfriend into the wee hours…. suspended from school twice for underage drinking?

    Is this really a lawsuit for financial support or a battle cry for a lost soul?? 

  9. Looks like a real mess. Between the spoiled kid and the parents that did the spoiling, I can’t believe the judge didn’t throw them all out of the courtroom.

    It will be a sad day when the young lady finally realizes that the world doesn’t revolve around her and she needs to work for the things she wants.

  10. Anyone under the age of 18 does not have the legal capacity to make a contract verbal or otherwise. Why should parents who are prudent enough to create a college fund for their children be expected to give – what is still their money – to a child who flouts the rules of the home and flounces out when the parents say enough.

    If the parents had intended the money for the girl’s college education no matter what they would have created a trust fund that would pay the fees in all circumstances.

  11. Spoiled Brat is the first thing that came to my mind! We have two son’s both were offered money for college. With the understanding that It was OUR money,They would get what they needed as they went threw college. If they chose not to go to college the money stayed where it was for OUR retirement. No exceptions. Both son’s opted for no college, but they started their own business’s on there own and doing quite will.

  12. Her suit is funded by the father of the family she is living with. He is an attorney and legal fees are part of the complaint. The bill is at $13K and climbing. You don’t have to look too hard to see who is really driving this issue…

  13. She is 18. She is not a child. She is an adult. Any money given to her from her parents is a gift, nothing more. Like everyone else in this world, she just might have to comply to some rules in order to get what she wants. Most of us do in life. There are several other children in this same family, who haven’t chosen to sue their parents. Whether she is spoiled or not, doesn’t make her parents responsible for her poor taste in judgement. She owns those actions herself. When an 18 year old is arrested for dealing drugs, we don’t arrest the parents, because it wouldn’t make any sense. Doesn’t make any sense here either to blame the parents.

  14. It may differ between states, but I believe some have laws in place requiring parents to financially support their children while they are still in high school, even after they turn 18. So it might not be so ridiculous for her to sue them for discontinuing support by no longer paying for her private high school. Then again, couldn’t she just enroll herself in a public high school to finish? Either way, it sounds like there was drama all-around, not just coming from the daughter. I can understand kicking a child out after finishing high school if they still haven’t done anything with their life after some time, but most kids turn 18 during their senior year of high school. By the sound of it, they kicked her out after turning 18 but still before graduating. That sounds pretty harsh and I’d guess that overreaction runs in the family.

  15. I never expected my folks to support me in my very inexpensive college. I was 17 when I graduated from HS and if I hadn’t been going to college, I would have been expected to be out of the house pronto (with no financial assets and not even a driver’s license). When I gradated from college I was 21 and was out of the house on my own within the week after I got home form college, as I knew my parents didn’t plan to support me, at least they sure never encouraged me to hang around, but did encourage the job hunting.

    The problem here is the girl has been being coddled from the beginning. If she wants to finish high school she should go the local public (ie. FREE)one and work with the guidance counselor on how to get funding for college. Although financial aid looks at the parents finances for how much assistance they should contribute, so she is at a deficit there. It is hard to yank everything away after giving it all these years, now she feels entitled, but that is what her family raised and now they get to live with it and all this embarrassment. Sounds like the parents are doing the tough love routine, but a bit too late and in the wrong way.

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