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Rachel Canning moves home, can 18-year-olds successfully sue parents for support

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Rachel Canning has a name and face many aren’t likely to forget for quite a while. The media has painted her as a spoiled brat who refused to clean her room, dump her boyfriend and moved out before turning 18-years-old, then turned around and demanded her parents to support her. While it doesn’t appear at this point she’s going to win much of anything in this lawsuit, her case brings up some valid questions and points. Now that Canning has brought her suit forward and received national, media attention for doing so, one must wonder how many future, similar lawsuits are on the horizon and if so, will they have a successful outcome.

So the question asked, is what situations may result with an 18-year-old successfully suing his or her parents for support and college tuition?

While not espousing legal advice, it does seem plausible. Without claiming exact knowledge of the Canning’s background or claims of abuse, etc., let’s take a hypothetical situation.

For example, it’s common knowledge that most parents create savings accounts or funds for their children’s educational future. As children are not legal adults, there is in fact, nothing that legally states children are required to have that money. Parents could essentially “hold” money over a child’s head for 18-years, with the promise that “when the day comes” your education will be paid for, then develop and alcohol, drug, or gambling addiction and blow the money in one (or two) addiction-fueled weekends. Most children chalk it up to a case of bad parenting, may refuse to speak to their parent or parents again, take out a student loan and do their best to move forward with their lives. However, do they have legal grounds for a suit?

What do you think about the following scenario? What if family members or friends regularly sent checks for a child and over the years, mom and dad put that money into a “fund” or savings account for a child. Now suppose that money grew and grew over the years and every time a check was sent or a birthday card with cash inside, that money was put in the bank. However; since junior isn’t of legal age, the account is in the parents’ name. Now suppose Junior was told that every time he or she earned an A, they would get $100 added to the fund. Junior is convinced that he or she has college paid for. They never bought an X-Box with their birthday or Christmas money, but instead saved it up (under the guidance of mom and dad). They worked hard, studied, earned money for spotless report cards, then when they turned 18-years-old, were told that their behavior was unacceptable, therefore they weren’t going to get access to their account.

Do you think a lawsuit would be plausible?

Now, as to the exact specifics of Canning’s case, none of us really knows the truth. Sure, as an outsider it looks like a case of Rachel “I don’t know what a student loan is” Canning trying to take her parent’s for a ride.

Maybe she was. Maybe she learned a bit late that if you want Mommy and Daddy to support you, you need to do what Mommy and Daddy says and not anger them.

However, it’s possible that another scenario went on behind the scenes. Even if that wasn’t the case, there is always a possibility that another similar scenario to the hypothetical situations above could occur in the future.

Children don’t have many rights in this society. In fact, we’ve heard of horror stories when child or teen actors and actresses build a fortune that is controlled by Mom and Dad, and then ultimately squandered away before the little star gets a chance to touch what they earned. Several of these child stars actually sued their parents.

Whether Canning has real, legal grounds for her suit is a matter for the courts to handle. But it seems that if a child is in a situation where their parents are storing up a trust fund for their future education, it might be in a child’s best interest to have that put in writing; the likelihood of that happening, is zilch to none. We trust our parents to provide for us, to be true to their word, and if they say they are saving for our college education, to make good on that promise.

In Canning’s case, it seems she learned one of the most important lessons of all: If you’re going to live in your parents’ house, then you follow their rules.

Pure and simple.

The Canning case returns to court on April 22, 2014.

Charisse Van Horn is the owner of the Crime and Courts News Blog that features live, streaming trial coverage online. View the George Zimmerman, Jodi Arias archives or Oscar Pistorius trial live online. You may follow Crime and Courts News on Facebook as well.

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