Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Comment on the Rachel Canning case

In the news today is a story about an 18-year-old suing her parents for child support in New Jersey.

She was suing for emergency support after claiming her parents kicked her out.  The Judge denied her request for emergency support and adjourned the matter until April.  According to the NJ Dept. of Human Services website (, a child may be emancipated at age 18 for child support purposes, but this may be extended until 21 (or apparently longer) if the child is still in college or otherwise not financially self-sufficient.

New York has a slightly different rule, in which emancipation is presumptively age 21 unless emancipated sooner.  Thus, in New Jersey, it appears to place the burden more on the "child" claiming support beyond age 18, while in New York the burden of proving the case is on the parent(s) attempting to get out of paying support.

In my mind, New York has the correct approach.  Parents can still claim a child has emancipated themselves by virtue of his/her conduct (such as unjustifiably moving out), but the burden is on them to prove the case.

It is all the more important to continue financial support to a child if s/he is unemployed and has looked for a job but cannot find one.  According to the latest statistics (, approximately 1 out of 4 teens are completely unemployed (defined as actively seeking a job, but unable to find one).  This does not even count the number of teens who are working part-time but want (or need) full-time jobs, or those who are underemployed (working a job significantly below his/her skill-set or educational level).

While it may be that Ms Canning is an undeserving brat, it may also be that her claims are true and that her parents abused her in response to school suspension.  One hopes the Judge will ultimately hear both sides fairly at a trial and justice will be done.

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