Did you hear the one about the 18-year-old daughter suing her parents for child support and college money? Unfortunately, no punch-line – I thought it was a joke, some kind of spoof. I mean, who sues their parents in broad daylight? Not to say that some children shouldn’t take their parents to court for crimes committed against them. The courts are filled with those horrifying cases.
Rachael Canning, an 18-year-old, New Jersey high school student, has taken her parents to civil court with charges of emotional abuse and abandonment and is seeking money for her private school and college tuition. Her parents claim no abuse has ever occurred, that Rachael simply refused to respect house rules, and that she left their home on her own accord.
This case has the full attention of New Jersey’s legal community, as well as parents across the nation, due to the possible ripple effect. A favorable ruling for Rachael could establish a precedent setting forth further parental responsibilities toward children of legal age no longer living at home. Such a ruling would encourage similar lawsuits against parents by children who feel entitled to certain amenities and would add to the workload of our already overburdened court system.
It is quite easy to have the knee jerk reaction to such an event, especially if you are a parent (personally I did). The comments and posts have slammed Rachael as a spoiled-rotten child, filled with a sense of entitlement. Yet, the question remains: Who sues their parents? A hurting person lashing out and making decisions based on pain and wounds without a critical thought process taken place or a time of reflection and consideration of other people. Rachael, herself, has admitted in an email to her parents, “I’m my biggest enemy and do realize that a change has to be made.” The abrupt moment from childhood to adulthood is filled with enormous challenges, and our youth are completely unprepared to make effective choices that define adulthood. We cram the abc’s into their heads and hearts with fun carefree songs but as a society we hardly lay the foundation to developing empowering choices.
On the other hand, we should not simply assume that Rachael’s accusations are false. After all, victims of abuse must summon a huge amount of courage to come forth and speak up, and there are too many people in this world who have been abused and ignored because the evidence was not verified. Yet, if the accusations are, indeed, false, then we come back to a young woman who is hurting and in need of help.
Any way you look at this case, it is disturbing and warrants a dialogue on resources for families struggling with conflict and challenges that land them in court.
Share your thoughts and resources.
Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com