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High school senior Rachel Canning, 18, appears in Morris County Superior Court in Morristown, N.J., Tuesday, March 4, 2014.

Bob Karp, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

Elizabeth and Sean Canning, parents of Rachel Canning, cry during a hearing at the Morris County Courthouse, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Morristown, N.J.

John O'Boyle, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

Honor student who sued parents returns home

  • Article by: SAMANTHA HENRY
  • Associated Press
  • March 12, 2014 - 5:05 PM

ROSELAND, N.J. — The New Jersey honor student who sued to get her parents to support her after she moved out of their home has reunited with them, and the family is now asking for privacy.

Rachel Canning moved back in with her parents after speaking with her mother Tuesday, but without any promises of financial support or other consideration, according to lawyers for the teen and her parents.

A state judge Wednesday denied a request from Canning's attorney asking for a court-appointed guardian for the 18-year-old to be paid for by her parents. The denied application for immediate relief also requested that the courtroom be closed for future hearings, the records sealed and all parties prohibited from speaking to the media.

"It is critical that if Rachel does dismiss this matter that she does so of her own free will and not due to the extreme pressure of her parents and the media," her attorney, Tanya N. Helfand, wrote in the court filing.

Phone and email messages to Helfand were not immediately returned.

Angelo Sarno, the lawyer for Cannings' parents, said that the notoriety surrounding the suit had damaged the family.

"This is a matter that should have been brought in some counselor's office, not into a courtroom," Sarno said. "There's a long road ahead, this is not something that's going to happen overnight. The point of this process? The healing needs to begin."

Last week, State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard denied the teen's request for child support and to have her parents pay her remaining high school tuition. But the judge scheduled an April court date to consider the over-arching question of whether the Cannings are obligated to financially support their adult daughter.

Bogaard sounded skeptical of some of the claims in the lawsuit, saying it could lead to teens "thumbing their noses" at their parents, leaving home and then asking for financial support.

"Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an Xbox? For 13-year-olds to sue for an iPhone?" he asked. "We should be mindful of a potentially slippery slope."

Canning left her parents' house on Oct. 30, two days before she turned 18 after a tumultuous stretch during which her parents separated and reconciled and the teen began getting into uncharacteristic trouble at school.

In court filings, Canning's parents, retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife, Elizabeth, said their daughter voluntarily left home because she didn't want to abide by reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew, doing a few chores and ending a relationship with a boyfriend her parents say is a bad influence. They say that shortly before she turned 18, she told her parents that she would be an adult and could do whatever she wanted.

She said in her lawsuit that her parents are abusive, contributed to an eating disorder she developed and pushed her to get a basketball scholarship. They say they were supportive, helped her through the eating disorder and paid for her to go to a private school where she would not get as much playing time in basketball as she would have at a public school.

Canning had been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend. The friend's father, former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, was paying for the lawsuit.

© 2014 Star Tribune