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Friday, January 16, 2015

WHEN ARE WE "ON OUR OWN"?

BRYCE ON LIFE

- I thought the magic number was 18?

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Last month I was reading about a 21 year old New Jersey woman, Caitlyn Ricci, who sued her parents to pay for her college tuition. Evidently, the family had a stormy past; her mother Maura McGarvey, an English teacher, and Michael Ricci, a high school basketball coach, are divorced and remarried to others. The mother raised Caitlyn in her house until she was 19, whereupon she was turned out for not living by the rules of the house, such as getting a job, performing chores around the house, and going to school. It gets even muddier when you consider Caitlyn's paternal grandparents are helping her, thereby suing their own son.

Surprisingly, a judge found in Caitlyn's favor; for the parents to pay her tuition, citing a 1982 New Jersey landmark case where the court ruled divorced parents are responsible for providing for their children’s education. It should be noted, Caitlyn hasn't lived with either of her parents for the last two years and refuses to have any contact with them. Nonetheless, the parents have been ordered to pay $16,000 for her tuition at an out of state school, Temple. Regardless of the judge's decision, the father vows not to pay the fee and face contempt charges instead. Understandably, a lot of parents across the country are rallying behind the parents.

This case was similar to the 2013 Rachel Canning case, also from New Jersey. The case made headlines as Rachel sued her parents for college tuition. Like the Ricci case, the family suffered from some severe squabbles regarding the daughter's conduct at home, and her choice of boyfriend. She later dropped the suit. However, Rachel was back in the news recently, receiving a domestic violence restraining order against the same boyfriend her parents disliked earlier.

Three things come to mine when I read of such cases:

First, we now live in an age where it is difficult to discipline our children, thanks in large part to anti-corporal punishment laws. If the parents own the house, the children are under their rule, not the other way around. I obviously do not know the family dynamics of the Riccis and Cannings, but there is clear evidence there is a breakdown in the family unit. I suspect the parents waited too long to discipline their children. Now they are paying for it.

Second, a college education is a privilege, not a right. If it was an entitlement, the public would be paying for it. They do not, which is why I am puzzled by the 1982 New Jersey law.

And finally, I thought you were recognized as an adult or, at least, of legal age when you turned 18 years old. I even went so far as to look it up:

18 - Age of maturity - (except Alabama (19), Nebraska (19 or upon marriage), Puerto Rico (21) and Mississippi (21))
17 - Age of criminal responsibility
14 - Minimum age to work, 18 - Unrestricted
18 - Marriage
16-17 - The age by which you can leave school (this varies from state to state)
18 - Voting age
21 - Drinking age

Again, this makes me wonder why the parents are being blackmailed into paying for Caitlyn Ricci's college tuition. She is obviously recognized as a mature independent adult. If she can hire an attorney for such proceedings, she can certainly find the means to pay for her tuition on her own. This case should be thrown out of court. I fail to see how a judge can order the parents to pay for their children if they are legally recognized as "on their own."

Maybe there is something unique to New Jersey that brings out the worst in people. Then again, maybe we should just file this story under, "Attorneys Gone Wild."

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim's columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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