A New Jersey teen is without financial support from her parents after a judge ruled on Tuesday that her parents are not responsible for her high school tuition and living costs since she moved out of their home last October.
In the unprecedented lawsuit, 18-year-old Rachel Canning alleges she was forced to move out of the family home, citing emotional abuse and threats of physical abuse from her parents. However, her parents say that she voluntarily left home because she didn't want to follow their rules, reports CNN.
Judge Peter Bogaard denied Canning's request for her parents to reimburse her financially since her departure.
"I have been subjected to severe verbal and physical abuse by my mother and father," Canning wrote in a court document. "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."
An investigation by New Jersey's Division of Child Protection and Permanency has determined that Rachel's allegations of emotional abuse are unfounded.
Canning's parents say she ran away because she did not like their house rules, which included reconsidering her relationship with a boyfriend who may be a bad influence and following her curfew.
"We're not Draconian and now we're getting hauled into court. She's demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn't want to live at home, and she's saying, 'I don't want to live under your rules,'" her father Sean Canning, a town administrator and retired police officer, tells the Daily Record.
The lawsuit appears to stem from an incident last October in which court documents suggest Rachel's parents took away her car and phone privileges after she was suspended from school for truancy. Her parents reportedly prohibited the teen from seeing her boyfriend, who was also suspended. Once Rachel learned of the punishment, her father says she decided to run away.
"We're being sued by our child. I'm dumbfounded. So is my wife. So are my other daughters," says Sean. "Living in our house, there's very few things. There's minor chores, there's curfews. When I say curfew, it's usually after 11 o'clock at night."
Rachel is currently living with her best friend and schoolmate, whose lawyer father, John Inglesino, is paying for her lawsuit. The suit alleges that the Cannings reimburse Inglesino for the legal fees.
"Under the guise of good intentions, they have arrogantly placed themselves in our stead and operated under the belief that their parenting style is superior to our own," Sean Canning says of the Inglesinos' choice to fund his daughter's lawsuit.
Another court date will be held in April on other issues in the suit.
Legal experts suggest the nature of this case is unprecedented in the United States.
While there have been cases of teen and young adults suing their parents, this case is unique because it does not involve a parental divorce in which the parents disagree on who to support the child financially, nor does it include a teen fighting for emancipation, where he/she is declared financially independent from parents.