Teen sues parents for HS & college tuition

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Teen sues parents for HS & college tuition
29
Thu, 03-06-2014 - 1:54pm

Did you see this story? Its a complicated situation and IMO incredibly sad.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/05/living/nj-teen-sues-parents-for-college-education/

I posted this on Parents of College Students too but think its almost more appropriate here, because the girl is still in HS.

What do you ladies think? 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009
Wed, 03-12-2014 - 12:59am

Turtletime said, “As for the parents . . . I always try to give them the benefit of the doubt.   Also my default position until I have reason to do otherwise.

$300,000 per year puts them above what I would consider upper middle class income wise. Or maybe I am out of touch with reality.  It also puts them in the category of highly taxed people, especially in a state like New Jersey with state income tax.  At $300,000 lots of the tax benefits of lower income folks have been phased out and eliminated.  For example, personal exemptions are eliminated and that amount is taxed at the highest rate. (I think I recall that some of those educational tax benefits disappear with the more income the users have, but I could be mistaken.)  There is a very good chance that the net available to the family after taxes is $180,000 or less. Depending on where they live and the cost of living that may not be as large as it appears. Money goes further in some places than others.  

Three girls in a Catholic private school sounds like a tuition bill of $36,000 per year, which indicates that these parents do place a high premium on the benefits of helping their children educationally. 

Also they have apparently committed a chunk of their income to a college savings program of some type for their daughters, which indicates that they do want to help their children after high school.

I know of a family with two sons in PhD programs that both attended community college (because of poor high school grades) prior to transferring to a state university for the last two years of college.  As a side point, they both had to repeat Algebra I after their high school freshman years.  There is academic life after failure it seems.  Our daughters and SILs attended community college, graduated from local state university, and are in what is now a local state law school.

By decree of the regional accrediting associations, every university has about 45 units of common core lower division requirements that all students must take. Those are readily available at the community colleges and even in the evening programs of those community colleges.  Also most every degree has “prep for the major” classes that are available at the community colleges—things like multiple classes in chemistry, physics, calculus for science majors.  Whatever she needs above any IB or AP class credits she has will be available at the community college. Some time ago, I got curious as to what the tuition at community colleges is across the country and checked several states and it was a fairly consistent $50 per unit.

What is to her disadvantage is she is rejecting the parental scholarship program of her parents because she wants her freedom from their rules.

I also take note of the fact that her attorney wanted compensation from her parents.  He was NOT doing this pro bono (for free for her benefit).

It may be that the parents of Sabrtooth’s  SIL realized that this kid was not going to benefit from college immediately and would be better served by spending a few years in a very structured military program.  Whatever their reasoning, it apparently benefited the SIL.  We have an uncle in the family who was an involuntary Marine back in ’69 (drafted) who credits that misfortunate event to keeping him from many mistakes and much misery.    

As for the government benefits being very controlled for those students between 18 and 24: without certain restrictions every student will be claiming to be an independent student.  When ours married they became eligible for the approximately $5,000 per year Pell grant funds, along with certain Earned Income Tax Credits, but the parents lost the exemptions and the tax credits that the kids could not fully claim together ate up most of those benefits of independance. 

Do her parents have the right to put certain conditions on the funds they provide after high school?   Do parents have a right to NOT fund a lifestyle choice that they disapprove of? Do the parents have a right to decide what they believe is in the best interest of their child?  Do we want the state mandating and controlling every aspect of a child’s upbringing?  Do we want parents to be subject to litigation for making decisions that a child dislikes?  Exactly what standards do we want a judge to apply in these situations and what makes a judge more qualified to decide than the parents—parents who have been providing quite nicely for her financially for many many years?  Seriously where is the line to be drawn?

I could be totally mistaken, but I see parents yearning to help her.
 


Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 03-12-2014 - 7:41am

LOL Kimmy, no SIL was not in need of character building, he was in need of free money, and in the future, low cost home loans.  His dad is a veterinary pathologist, and a Colonel in the Army, with 4 kids.  Being a somewhat frugal man, he raised his kids to be equally frugal.  One of his frugalities, was to have them secure their own college education, just as he had.  To that end, excellent grades, community service, and a sport of choice were required from the getgo.  Since the family moved around at the behest of the Army, being good in a sport was also a way to connect with new kids. 

He also knew that someone with brains and ambition enlisting in the service, would NOT be turned into cannon fodder.  SIL was originally interested in law, and his MOS reflected that.  He was a paralegal for the JAG Corps.  His  job was not entirely peril-free, since he was serving in Iraq, and tasked with obtaining depositions from witnesses in the field, about cases against soldiers.  As time went on his interest in the technical side of computing grew, leading to his interest in software design/engineering.

He left the service and went directly into a job with the Veteran's Benefits Admin while attending college full time.  After graduation, he eventually was able to "buy" enough "hours" of pension credit to turn those college years into full time work credits.  Altho he has had offers in the private sector, he opted to stay in the government.  He works for the Dept of Justice, and is nearing his 15th service year.   When he retires, with full pension, he will still be a young man, free to pick and choose the best offers in the private sector.

Avatar for elc11
Community Leader
Registered: 06-16-1998
Wed, 03-12-2014 - 9:01pm

Marie, I think that this case does have to do with the girl acting spoiled. Remember the expression about "biting the hand that feeds you"? She doesn't want to have to be respectful towards her parents or follow their house rules but she wants the perks that come with it--financial support. Rachel could get her tuition paid if she was willing to "suck it up" for a few months by doing what her parents want. It depends on how badly she wants to go to a particular college. Suing her parents must have sounded easier or preferable to toeing the line. There are thousands of HS seniors who would love to move out of their parents home, not have to abide by curfews, be free to drink alcohol, etc etc. But most of them understand that their parents would stop supporting them, so they keep their behavior within bounds. Depending on how the judge rules in the end, the HS class of 2015 could be bringing lawyers lots of business LOL.

Once a kid turns 18 the only leverage the parents have is money. Her parents are trying to use that leverage. The friend's parents undermined their attempts so its not working like it might have.

I will be curious to see if Rachel gets any of her college acceptance offers rescinded. Even if she keeps her 12th grade GPA high, some of her extracurriculars seem to have fallen off the resume. Her alleged illegal activities have most likely come to the attention of the college admissions officers, which could be a problem when most universities have zero tolerance for such behavior. The lawsuit probably seemed like a good idea at one time but now that she is infamous it may seem different.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

Sabrtooth, nothing wrong with being frugal and passing that off to the children.  It is a family value also as most of us don’t have an ever greening money tree in the back yard. LOL We started a decade ago training the kids to live within a budget and defer gratification until they could afford it.  It also made for fewer family arguments as they had control of “their share.”

I have recently been reading “Taking time off” by Colin Hall and Ron Lieber, which are the personal stories of a few dozen kids who for lots of different reasons took off a year or two between high school and college, or in the middle of collage, or between college and grad school.  As I think about it, Obama did that before law school.  It is a fascinating read. Some found direction as to what they wanted to do in life.   I think some kids, perhaps many would benefit from “taking time off” for a period of time.   

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

Returning to Rachel our teenager in New Jersey and her parents, it may be that her parents are devout Catholics who give 10% or more to their church. If so, $30,000 after tax benefits would be another $18,000 off of the net of taxes amout of $180,000 I mentioned above.  Also, they may not have a “golden” company pension plan other than something like a 401K that they have to fund themselves with say another $18,000 per year.  $180,000, less a $18,000, another $18,000 and the $36,000 in tuition for three girls, drops that hefty pay check down to $108,000.  And as I noted yesterday they may also live in one of those very expensive housing markets.  They may have had a devastating health issue that is still draining them.  The possibilities of what we don’t know are endless.  As a side point, her parents may even allow Ratchel to have wine on occasions with special meals. 

My guess is that when things cool down, the parents will pay the school for the tuition.

Something that I see as a real positive about Rachel and her parents is that it is apparent that they have NOT made the mistake of letting her avoid the linkage between work and money to do what she wants with it.  She works to make a car lease payment, maybe car insurance and gas money also. (Not that it matters here, but our kids banked about $20,000 per couple mowing lawns together over four summers while teens, which they still have.)

I don’t think Rachel is a bad person, just misguided--as teens often are.  And she has an attorney that is making things worse for her, her parents, and the siblings.  The family is out a fortune in legal fees to defend the parents. At a couple of hundred dollars per lawyer hour, it’s real easy to get into the multiple tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.  And child protective services has spent limited resources, which should have been spent elsewhere,  in answering and investigating what appears to be bogus charges.   

These were NOT rhetorical questions as I would be curious to hear well thought out answers:

Do her parents have the right to put certain conditions on the funds they provide after high school?   Do parents have a right to NOT fund a lifestyle choice that they disapprove of? Do the parents have a right to decide what they believe is in the best interest of their child?  Do we want the state mandating and controlling every aspect of a child’s upbringing?  Do we want parents to be subject to litigation for making decisions that a child dislikes?  Exactly what standards do we want a judge to apply in these situations and what makes a judge more qualified to decide than the parents—parents who have been providing quite nicely for her financially for many many years?  Seriously where is the line to be drawn?

I heard on the news that the parents’ attorney has announced that Rachel Canning has returned home and they are resolving their disputes within the home--where it should be resolved.  Good news for everybody except Rachel’s attorney who won’t be collecting from the parents.

Avatar for sabrtooth
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-03-1999
Wed, 03-12-2014 - 11:27pm

Bad news for the "friend", and unfortunatly, probably bad news in the long run for Rachel herself.  As Elc noted, this brouhaha likely will NOT go unnoticed by schools Rachel may have, or may desire to apply to.  As I suggested previously, the fact that her poor behavior became open information will probably affect her ability to score scholarships. 

And even as they announced the reconciliation, her parents' attnys noted, "Canning's case attracted national attention, which (will) likely continue to affect Rachel. Nothing good could have come from this case. Absolutely nothing good. This kid is going to be affected long term from the attention."   (The lawyer) said the family is not expected to make a public statement, despite the amicable resolution.

As for your non-rhetorical questions....

All states have laws dealing with the "emancipation" of minors; that is, laws that specify when and under what conditions children become independent of their parents.  No fixed age of emancipation exists, yet a minor is presumed to become emancipated upon reaching the age of majority. In most states, the age of majority is 18.  An implied emancipation arises from minor and/or parental conduct inconsistent with the right and duty of parents to exercise control over and provide care and support for their child during its minority.

Therefore, the parents have both a right AND a duty to exercise control over their MINOR child, and to provide that MINOR child care and support.  As with most things tho, there is a double edge to the sword.  The rights and duties of a parent also include their right to control when the child may leave the home to live elsewhere, AND the parent has the right to collect a MINOR'S wages, and control their assets.

These are the reasons a MINOR sues for emancipation.  They want to be able to leave the home and live elsewhere, and they want to keep their own wages, and control their own assets.  A child who has reached the age of MAJORITY automatically has the right to leave the home, keep their own wages, and control their own assets.  The parents at that point have lost the right and duty to exercise  control. HOWEVER the parents of a child who has reached MAJORITY also no longer have a duty to provide care and support.  There's that double edge again.  http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/emancipation_of_minors

THEREFORE: Do parents have a right to put conditions on funds they provide after high school?  Do they have the right to NOT fund a lifestyle they disapprove of?  Do they have the right to decide what is in the best interests of a child?  YES, YES, and YES.  If the child HAS reached majority, they have NO LEGAL DUTY to provide those funds, so they can put any conditions they wish upon the receipt of them.  If the child has NOT reached majority, then they have the duty to exercise control over their minor child as they see fit, as long as it is legal.

As for the state mandating EVERY aspect of a child's upbringing--they pretty much already do that.  New Jersey laws regarding Children, Juvenile and Domestic relations, are contained in Title 9:2-9:18.  I gave up wading thru it at about the 25th page, at which point I was only on 9:6:12. 

But for all that, the courts are ever wary of treading on parent-minor child relationships, especially as regards changing them in favor of the CHILD.  So I am sure any competant judge would continue to rule in favor of the parents' rights to control their MINOR child, as long as that control is legal and not abusive.  However, even tho there are undoubtedly PAGES AND PAGES of laws defining "legal control" and "abuse", I am sure some lawyer, somewhere, would be willing to contest those definitions, for $400 per billable hour.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

Oh Elc11 and Sabrtooth, you’re both spot on with your thinking.  

Thank you Sabrtooth for giving perspective to my questions.   I would love to hear anybody come in here and reasonably argue why the laws should be changed. Come show us our errors in judgment.

As elc pointed out this is the only leverage parents have after emancipation age to somewhat bend the twig of your child’s life in the correct direction.  And you certainly don’t want to fund the debasing of your child’s life.

I so messed up on my understanding of this situation because I did not go deep into the articles to understand completely.

The best friend's father should butt out, spend his time screwing up his own children, and leave other people's children alone.  With friends like these you don’t need enemies.

I misunderstood and thought the lawyer was doing it on a contingency basis.  Instead she is getting paid by the best friend’s father. Exactly what kind of NUT would fund this lawsuit anyway? 

According to the standards of this lawsuit, each of our kids should be getting something like $650 per WEEK in financial assistance until they are like 22.  OUR KIDS ARE GETTING SCREWED as they are only getting $600 per MONTH.  LOL  This is about the same amount of money we would be spending if they were single, living at home, attending college.  We’ve always looked at it as a moral obligation to provide them with assistance until they finish school, not a legal obligation.  And are glad we have been able to so. 

To answer Ice tea's question about the about the amount of attention this case draws, it’s like man bites dog, instead of the usual situation where dog bites man.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-28-1999
Thu, 03-13-2014 - 11:54am

I think if the friend's father had used his skills of negotiation, which he should have learned in law school, after a few days of cooling off, the girl would have been home with her parents and it would have been a small bump in the road of their relationship.  But by suing the parents, basically to achieve his own fame, I think, he certainly made things worse.  Now that her parents had to spend money on hiring their own lawyer, that's less money for other things the family would have wanted to do, like vacations, or activities for the kids.  And I think it casts a lot of discredit on the legal profession by bringing these crazy lawsuits.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-08-2009

While reading about Rachel Canning on the web, I came across this by Michelle Maltais and it can be found by Googling:

An open letter to my kids about suing mom and dad—LA Times   

Very concise, well written, and funny!  And something we would all agree with and even Rachel will soon agree with.   If not now, Rachel will when she is the mean old MOM.  LOL  I wish I could write this well.

I had to laugh, when I read elsewhere that her parents made her do some chores.  SO?


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