After enduring a media barrage that's lasted more than a week, Rachel Canning, the New Jersey teen who’s suing her parents for financial support, returned home to her family on Tuesday night. But the very next day Canning's lawyer demonstrated that the case is far from over by returning to court, requesting that the parents pay for a guardian to be appointed for their 18-year-old high school student.
More on Yahoo Shine: Teen Sues Parents for Cash, College Tuition. Does She Have a Case?
“Just a few days ago, Rachel Canning indicated she could not go back home with her parents and she required a promise of some financial assistance going forward," attorney Tanya Helfand wrote in her application to the court, highlighting the teen's quick turnaround in deciding to return to her parents' after living at a friend's for several months. “Now, after speaking with her mother yesterday, she said she is waiving her complaint and is receiving no promises or consideration in return.”
She noted that if her client decides to dismiss the case, it’s important that she does so “of her own free will” and not because of outside pressures, and added, “A psychologist certified that the parents are abusive. School faculty certified that the parents abuse the child.” Helfand also asked that a gag order be placed on all parties regarding the case. But Family Division Judge Peter Bogaard in Morris County denied the request.
More on Yahoo: NJ Teen Suing Parents Won't Get Immediate Support
Helfand did not return a call seeking comment from Yahoo Shine — nor did Angelo Sarno, the attorney representing parents Sean and Elizabeth Canning. But on Wednesday, shortly before Helfand’s court appearance, Sarno held a press conference about Rachel’s homecoming.
“The case is without any legal merit. Certain cases should not see the inside of a courtroom. This is one such case,” said Sarno, who recently replaced attorney Laurie Rush-Masuret on the case. “Government cannot police the day-to-day financial affairs of parents and their children while the family is intact.” As for her homecoming, he said, “They welcomed her back into the house. There is a long road ahead. The healing needs to begin," he added, “She’s home. Respect it. Let’s not figure out what the motivation was.”
But Sarno’s plea hasn’t stopped all manner of journalists, bloggers, and social media users from trying to analyze a situation that’s captivated the public since early March. That’s when reports first emerged that Rachel — who had been living at her best friend’s house since November — was suing her parents for immediate support, current private-school fees, and future college tuition. She claimed they’d been abusive and had driven her to develop an eating disorder, and that her dad was “inappropriately affectionate.” The parents, meanwhile, have maintained that their daughter moved out voluntarily after refusing to abide by their rules, and that she’s been abusing alcohol.
Further complicating the situation is the fact that the father of Rachel’s friend — attorney and former freeholder John Inglesino — is bankrolling the lawsuit. And that, notes Naomi Schaefer Riley in a New York Post opinion piece, is no small detail. “She’s a high-school student whose really bad choices have been encouraged by people much older, who should know better,” she writes. “Her parents’ authority has been undermined by the people they might least have expected — other parents.”
Meanwhile, though commentary from those who believe that Rachel is simply an entitled brat is ubiquitous, there are supporters out there, too. More than 1,500 people have liked the Education for Rachel Facebook page, an effort created anonymously (and, some commenters believe, by Rachel herself) to get the Cannings to pay for college. A recent post there notes: “Not living with your parents should not be punishable by loss of a quality education, this is how messed up higher education is, and that’s not Rachel's fault.”
On the teen’s own Facebook page as well, various supporters have chimed in to take critics there to task. “All you are stupid. Let the girl sue her parents. You don't know how they treat her,” wrote one man. Another chimed in, “Rachel is an absolute hero. Anyone who would bash her is a short-sighted idiot. I hope she gets everything she wants, and more. If I owned a company, I would hire her in a New York minute and pay her whatever the hell she wants…”
Finally, there’s this thoughtful perspective from Bustle, in which Gabrielle Moss cautions outsiders not to rush to dismiss Rachel’s abuse allegations. She writes how she grew up with a “wildly unstable mother” and often stayed with friends, which was a “bleak and disorienting” situation. “It’s not an option I chose lightly,” Moss notes, “and I hesitate to think that Canning did, either.”
As for now, Canning's motivations, as well as those of her parents, remain a mystery.