Parental Authority on Trial in Jersey

Monday, 10 Mar 2014 04:33 PM

By James Hirsen

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Computer screens, tablets, and smartphones across America have been filled with the unsettling images of a couple in a New Jersey courtroom, the two reduced to tears over a lawsuit that was being lodged against them by their own 18-year-old daughter.
 
The parents found themselves in the position of being defendants at the Morris County Courthouse as a result of a lawsuit that was initiated by their plaintiff daughter after she had moved out of their home.
 
Being the stuff of any parent’s nightmares, the story predictably went viral. Rachel Canning, a New Jersey high school student, had essentially taken to the court to ask for the use of the force of government to interfere with commonplace parental discretion.
 
She asserted that her parents had requested she leave her home shortly after turning 18 because they had objections regarding her choice of boyfriend.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Canning contended that their daughter had made her own decision to move out because she did not wish to abide by the family rules that they had established.
 
The honor student and cheerleader at a Catholic high school has already lost the first round of her case. Judge Peter Bogaard denied her request for a court order that her parents pay weekly child support in the amount of $650.
 
Rachel is also seeking to have her high school tuition paid for by her parents, gain access to the funds her parents had allegedly set aside for her college expenses, and recoup the legal costs of the lawsuit.
 
The suit would not have materialized, but for the reportedly wealthy lawyer John Inglesino, who is financing Rachel’s case and representing her in court. Inglesino happens to also be the father of Rachel’s best friend. Ever since Rachel left home, she has been residing with Inglesino’s family.
 
Rachel’s father, retired police chief Sean Canning, indicated in papers filed with the court that the Inglesino home had “more lenient” rules than those imposed at the Canning residence.
 
Mr. Canning recounted about his daughter that she “would often tell us how the Inglesino parents would allow alcoholic parties to be held at their house. Rachel was angry because we would not host an alcoholic party. Rachel’s first time drinking alcohol was at the Inglesino house, in March of 2011, and on other occasions including their [Inglesino’s] daughter’s 15th birthday where they have freely provided alcohol.”
 
Rachel claimed in her court papers that she was “subjected to severe and excessive verbal and physical abuse” by her parents. If enough evidence were presented to back up such a claim, Rachel would be deemed to have been forced to move out of the house, entitling her to seek a recovery of financial support. However, state investigators looked into the claims of abuse and found them wanting.
 
Rachel had asserted her father had shown too much affection. However, the specifics of the abuse allegations appear to be insufficient in their weight. “He constantly put his arm around me in public and would kiss me on the cheek,” she stated.
 
A claim made by Rachel and denied by her mother is that Mrs. Canning had called her daughter “fat” and “porky,” which had precipitated the development of an eating disorder.
 
The Cannings, on the other hand, have documented a list of behaviors in which their daughter allegedly engaged, conduct that would elicit disapproval on the part of most parents or guardians, which ranged from lack of participation in household chores and curfew violation to drunkenness, theft, and school suspension.
 
Judge Bogaard cautioned that the results in the case could move down “a slippery slope.”
 
“Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in basic fear of establishing rules of the house?” Judge Bogaard asked. “A kid could move out and then sue for an XBox, an iPhone, or a 60-inch television.”
 
Rachel’s father is quoted in the New Jersey newspaper, the Daily Record, as saying, “We’re not draconian and now we’re getting hauled into court. She’s demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn’t want to live at home and she’s saying: ‘I don't want to live under your rules.’”
 
In this writer’s legal opinion, absent proof of actual abuse, the courts should refrain from getting involved in parental decisions that impose household standards, particularly when the child in question has reached the age of 18.
 
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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