The Spectacle Blog

College is a Right and My Parents Better Pay for It

By on 3.5.14 | 2:16PM

At 18, you can drive a car, enlist in the military, get married, purchase cigarettes and lottery tickets, and even buy things off infomercial ads. What you can’t do? Support yourself.

At least that is what 18-year-old Rachel Canning believes, and New Jersey law might back her up.

Canning claimed that her parents kicked her out of the house when she turned 18 and refused to pay the rest of her private high school tuition, give her access to her college fund, or pay for her daily living and transportation costs. So Canning sued.

Contrarily, her parents said that Canning left home because she didn’t want to abide by house rules, including breaking up with a boyfriend they considered a bad influence, abiding by a curfew, and doing household chores.

Today, the court ruled that although Canning’s parents have to keep her on their health insurance plan, they do not have to pay her weekly child support, outstanding high school tuition, or her attorney fees.  The rest of the charges will be dealt with on a later date.

Who is right? The jury will decide.

My concern is the essence of this debate: whether or not an 18-year-old adult can be emancipated.

Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams reported the following:

As Theodore Sliwinski explains on DivorceNet, “a court may not emancipate a child over the age of 18 if he or she is in still in college and relies on parental support.” And this why Rachel actually has a case. Family-law attorney Sheldon Simon told the Daily Record Monday that while the case is “highly unusual,” “a child is not emancipated until they’re on their own. Even if a child and the parents don’t get along, that doesn’t relieve the parents of their responsibility.”

This remains absolutely mind-boggling to me. Growing up, typical teenage daughter vs. parent scuffles occurred, and my parents’ wise response was always, “When you are 18, you can do whatever you like, but then you have to pay for all your expenses.” I was taught that “freedom” came hand-in-hand with “responsibility” – my responsibility, not theirs. To think that the law dictates that the parents of an 18-year-old must provide not just food and housing, but a college education to a legal adult is absolutely ridiculous—particularly if said child has no respect for them or their rules.

This entitlement mentality has to go. For goodness sake, a college education is a privilege, not a right. And no child should expect their parents to foot the bill.

Yeah, sure, at 18 I thought my 10 p.m. curfew and making my bed were silly requirements. But my parents were paying for my private high school, feeding me, letting me live at home, etc., etc., etc. Did they have to? No. The least I could do to thank them was to come home on time.

As the judge in Canning’s case said – what’s next? “A 13-year-old suing their parents for an Xbox?”

This law simply won’t do. 

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