It was the first time that high school senior Rachel Canning had laid eyes on her parents in more than four months...now they are facing off in a New Jersey courtroom.
The honors student is suing them for financial support and tuition.
"I am my biggest enemy," the judge read from an apologetic email Canning sent her parents a week before leaving home. "And, whether you guys see it or not, I am trying to change. I do miss you guys," the judge continued reading from the email.
But the relationship was rocky. Canning's parents say the 18 year old wouldn't listen, went out drinking all night with her boyfriend, at one point leaving her mother a profanity-laced voicemail.
"Have you ever, in your experience, seen a young adult child show such gross disrespect for a parent?" Judge Peter Bogaard, of the New Jersey State Superior Court, asked Canning's attorney, Tanya Helfand. "They're the ones who raised this child, this is the language that they're using in their household," Helfand answered.
After Canning was suspended from private school for missing class, her parents say they had to lay down some rules. First was get rid of the boyfriend, which is something she refused to do. "They didn't care what her best interest was. They were more interested in saving their $6,000 and making their point," Helfrand told Judge Bogaard.
Canning left home, citing emotional and verbal abuse, which her parents deny. They say they want her to come home. Now living with a friend's family, she wants her parents to pay for living expenses, high school, and college.
Legal experts say she may have a shot.
"If you continue your education, go to college or higher learning education, New Jersey says you are not emancipated -- as long as you are within the sphere of influence of your parents," said family law attorney Stephanie Hagan.
Parental influence was on the judge's mind as he discussed the potential impact of this case. "Are we going to condone or open the gates to a 12-year-old to sue for an XBox, or how about a 15-year-old asking for a 60-inch flat panel TV," Judge Bogaard asked.
The judge denied Rachel's request for emergency funds and set a date for an extended hearing on the case in April. The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency investigated and determined Rachel's allegations of emotional abuse were unfounded.
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