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Student's lawsuit against parents for tuition loses
A New Jersey family court judge ruled today that Rachel Canning's parents do not have to pay her high school tuition after she sued them to cover her schooling and living costs.
The judge delayed a ruling on whether the parents must pay the 18-year-old student's college tuition while asking lawyers to consider whether it's wise to "establish precedent where parents live in fear of establishing rules of the house?"
The judge also denied her request for weekly allowance and additional financial support including attorney fees.
The next hearing is scheduled for April 22.
The New Jersey family was in court today with the teenage daughter facing off against her parents in a battle to get them to pay for her schooling and living costs even though she's 18.
Rachel Canning, who stared straight ahead for most of the hearing, is suing her parents in family court in Morristown, N.J., because she says they refuse to pay for her Catholic high school education and for college in the fall.
She claims that her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, kicked her out of their Lincoln Park house when she turned 18 in October, which they deny. Dad Sean Canning says she left voluntarily because she didn't want to follow their house rules concerning curfew and chores.
"Private school, new car, college education; that all comes with living under our roof," he told ABC News station WABC-TV.
His lawyer, reading from a statement before the start of this afternoon's hearing, said the Cannings "are distraught that their oldest daughter feels that litigation is a better option than living together as a family."
"To be clear, my clients never abandoned nor abused their child and they have asked her to come home," Laurie Rush-Masuret said.
The judge said today that he wished more energy would be spent on reuniting the family than keeping it apart.
The young woman laid eyes on her parents for the first time in five months, listening to her lawyer accuse her parents in court of leaving Rachel Canning with nothing and painting the "most disgusting picture of their daughter" to get out of paying her tuition.
It was the first time the parents had seen their estranged daughter, 18, since she moved out in October.
"Why can't she go home?" the New Jersey family court judge asked.
"Her home life is an "abusive unhealthy situation," the teen's attorney, Tanya Helfand, replied.
Rachel Canning, an honor student and athlete at Morris Catholic High School, filed the lawsuit days ago and is asking a judge to declare her dependent on her parents for support as a student, according to The Daily Record.
The newspaper said Rachel Canning was asking that her parents settle a $5,306 tuition bill and pay living and transportation costs, as well as "commit" to an existing college fund.
Rachel Canning said in court documents, "My parents simply will not help me any longer. They want nothing to do with me and refuse to even help me financially outside the home although they certainly have the ability to do so. I am unable to support myself and provide for my food, shelter, clothing, transportation and education."
Steve Mindel, a family law specialist with no connection to the case, said, "This is a case that is totally unusual."
The Daily Record also reported that Rachel Canning had been living with her best friend's family. John Inglesino, the friend's father and a lawyer, is reportedly funding Rachel Canning's lawsuit but is not representing her. Inglesino declined to comment to ABC News.
He has reportedly said he wants her parents to foot the bill for legal fees as well, which now total $13,000.
Sean Canning, a former New Jersey police chief, said the ordeal was tearing his family apart.
"We'd be whole and healed as a family if she were back home," he said. "And I think she's being enabled. I think she's being steered down the wrong area and it's killing us."
Rachel Canning has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.
Today's scheduled court hearing will mark the first time the father and daughter see each other since October 2013.
"I don't know," Sean Canning said. "It's going to be very tough."