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Judge rules against New Jersey teen suing parents for support

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MORRIS PLAINS, N.J. (CBS NEWS) - A New Jersey couple does not have to pay for their 18-year-old daughter's college education, a judge ruled Tuesday, CBS New York reports.

Judge Peter Bogaard denied Rachel Canning's request of $650 a week in support, high school tuition back pay, college tuition and legal fees.

But he said he would revisit the issue of college tuition at the end of April, about a month after her financial aid forms are due.

Earlier her lawyer said the parents of the high school honor student should have sought help for their daughter rather than cutting her off financially for misbehaving, the teen's lawyer said in a court hearing Tuesday.

Canning is suing her parents, whom she alleges were abusive. She is seeking tuition money for her final high school semester and college.

During Tuesday's hearing, Rachel Canning barely made eye contact with her parents, CBS 2′s Alice Gainer reported.

The Morris Catholic High School cheerleader has been staying with a friend's family since the beginning of November. Her friend's father, attorney and former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, is bankrolling the lawsuit.

"In the four months that Rachel had been with the Inglesinos, these people have not called her, they have not come to see her, they have not sent a penny to her or to her benefactors," Rachel Canning's attorney, Tanya Helfand, told the judge.

"Any reasonable, caring parent would be so devastated and embarrassed by this situation, and they would reach out to the Inglesinos and they would reach out to their daughter, either through therapy, working with the Inglesinos to try and wrangle in this situation and make it right," Helfand said.

Her parents say Rachel Canning left their home on her own. Her father is former Lincoln Park Police Chief Sean Canning.

"To be clear, my clients never abandoned nor abused their child, and they have asked her to come home," their attorney, Laurie Rush-Masuret, told reporters just before entering court. 

Rush-Masuret said Rachel Canning did not want to follow house rules, including breaking up with her boyfriend whom they considered trouble.

Judge Peter Bogaard noted that Rachel Canning's behavior over the past year has been in question -- one or two school suspensions, drinking, losing her captaincy on the cheerleading squad and being kicked out of the campus ministry.

Rachel Canning, 18, is suing her parents in Morris County, N.J., on claims that they kicked her out of the house and refused to fund her college education. (Credit: CBS 2)

"What kind of parents would the Cannings be if they didn't set down some strict rules?" Bogaard said.

In court papers, Rachel Canning alleged her parents abandoned her when she turned 18 and have now refused to pay for her to go to college - even though she has received acceptance letters from several universities.

But her father told a different story.

"I know Rachel is a) a good kid, b) an incredibly rebellious teen, and she's getting some terrible information," Sean Canning said.

He claimed Rachel ran away from home in November because she did not want to follow house rules.

"Living in our house, there's rules," he said. "There's minor chores. There's curfews - when I say curfew, it's usually after 11 o'clock at night."

Inglesino is funding the lawsuit, telling CBS New York it is the only way the bright and focused teen will be able to go to a college appropriate for her to become a biomedical engineer.

Rachel Canning, who has a $20,000 scholarship, said the University of Vermont is her first choice.

But Sean Canning said he is not refusing to pay for her college education.

"I reject the whole question on that -- the whole premise," he said. "We have a college fund that's available to her - there's no doubt about that. But it's the equivalent ... of going shopping at a high-end store and sending somebody the bill."

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