Parents in tears as teen daughter sues

Last updated 08:53 06/03/2014

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A US high school cheerleader suing her parents for financial support has lost the first round in court.

New Jersey teenager Rachel Canning, 18, filed a lawsuit against her parents to get them to pay her school costs and living expenses after she left home.

Canning claims her parents kicked her out of the house in November when she turned 18, but they say their daughter left home voluntarily and is welcome to return if she abides by their rules.

A family court judge has denied Canning's request for a temporary payout of US$5000 (NZ$5900) in remaining fees to her high school, and US$600 (NZ$712) a month in support.

Canning also wants access to her college fund.

In the Morris County court, Judge Peter Bogaard read an answerphone message left by Canning to her mother, in which she said, "I wanna s*** all over your face", the Daily Mail reported.

"I f***ing hate you and um I've written you off so don't talk to me, don't do anything I'm blocking you from just about everything, have a nice life, bye mom," the message said.

Judge Bogaard said: "Have you ever in your experience seen such gross disrespect for a parent?"

Canning claims her mother called her "fat" and "porky" which led to her becoming bulimic.

She also alleges her former police-chief father used to get her drunk and kiss her inappropriately.

Her father, Sean, told reporters outside court, "We are good parents, we have nothing to hide."

He and his wife, Elizabeth, burst into tears during the hearing.

"We love our child and miss her," he said.

"This is terrible. It's killing me and my wife.

"We're heartbroken but what do you do when a child says 'I don't want your rules but I want everything under the sun and you to pay for it?'."

Judge Bogaard warned he must consider the "slippery slope" where "we open the gates for a 12-year-old to sue for an Xbox, a 13-year-old to sue for an iPhone ... what about a 15-year-old asking for a 60-inch TV"?

Canning, a cheerleader and lacrosse player, was also an honours student, and has a US$20,000 (NZ$23,000) scholarship to university.

She says she didn't run away but was given the option of dumping her boyfriend or moving out.

She is now living with a friend, whose parents are paying her legal fees.

Her parents say they love their daughter, but she had developed severe behavioural problems, including underage drinking, and had been suspended from school.

Judge Bogaard asked what kind of parents would they be if they did not lay down strict rules.

"It's clear to me all the positive qualities Rachel obviously has, in terms of sports and academics, but I'm not going to step on a father for how he tries to get his child on the right tracks when she has obviously come off the tracks, to put it mildly," he said.

He set another hearing date for next month.

- Agencies, Fairfax NZ

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