Dad Speaks Out After 21-Year-Old Sues Him to Pay College Tuition

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Photo courtesy Michael Ricci

Since Yahoo Parenting launched on Oct. 23, the editors and writers have posted nearly 600 stories on the site. They chose this article – originally published on Dec. 10 – as a highlight of the pieces that offer trusted advice, inspire provocative conversations, and hopefully add a little fun to your life, every day.

Caitlyn Ricci, 21, has been battling her parents over college tuition in court since August 2013. On Monday, a judge ruled that Michael Ricci and Maura McGarvey must pay $16,000 toward their daughter’s tuition for Temple University, where Caitlyn is a student. Earlier, another judge ruled the parents, who are divorced, must also foot the bill for a community college she attended before transferring to Temple. In his own words, Michael Ricci offers his take on his family’s ordeal to Yahoo Parenting exclusively.

Most nights before I fall asleep, I have tears in my eyes thinking about the difficulty my family is going through. My daughter is suing her mother and me for $16,000 towards college tuition, and a judge has ruled in her favor. My daughter moved out, and I only ever see her in court. It’s certainly not what I wanted for my family.

STORY: 21-Year-Old Sues Parents for College Tuition

Every day I wake up and miss my daughter. I miss talking to her, seeing her, asking her about her day, and being involved in her life. I understand that after she was kicked out of her Disney internship, a program she participated in to help prepare for college, she was upset and angry at the rules her mother and I set for her. She was kicked out of the program for underage drinking, and so we had to set boundaries. That included chores, a curfew, and summer classes. When Caitlyn left our home in February 2013, to go to her grandparents, we thought we’d let her go for a couple days and then she would come home. When we called her grandparents to ask that they send her home, they said, “No, she can stay here as long as she wants.” That’s when we knew we had problems.  

Maura and I have mutually parented Caitlyn her entire life. We’ve never before been that divorced couple that is in and out of court. We went to court only once — for our divorce. Although we may have disagreed at times, we always had Caitlyn’s best interests in mind. Always.  

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I found out through Twitter that my daughter was attending Temple [University in Philadelphia]. Yes, Twitter. And now, even after her mother and I agreed that if Caitlyn transferred to a state college we would help her financially (even though she hasn’t spoken to us in almost two years), a judge is telling me that if my daughter wants to go to Temple, she can go, and we have to pay for it. Basically, Caitlyn can go anywhere she wants and we have to pay. We have no say. 

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Photo courtesy Michael Ricci

I am disappointed in the New Jersey Family court system for making parenting decisions for my daughter, as if they know what is best for her. The bottom line is, she made a mistake when she got kicked out of her internship program. There are consequences for her actions. She didn’t want to abide by our rules, so she left. We asked her several times to come home and she never did. It makes my blood boil listening to a judge tell me that my daughter can go to any school in country she wants to, have no relationship with her parents, and we have to pay! We offered in-state tuition and she wants to go out of state. Common sense would say she should pay for it. The law is ridiculous. My ex and I have met with legislators who are writing a new bill that protects parents from this happening again. Do you realize that if you are married in the state of New Jersey, you are not under any legal obligation to pay for college? But, if you get divorced, you must contribute? Please, someone tell me how that makes sense. Not only do you have to pay, but apparently you have to pay for any college they want to go to, anywhere in the country. My ex and I have five kids between us, a mortgage, and other expenses. Why don’t they take any of that into account?   

People who are following this story have been quick to blame Caitlyn exclusively. Each and every story I read is followed by hundreds or even thousands of horrible comments about my daughter and what a brat she is.

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Photo courtesy of Michael Ricci

While I absolutely place blame on Caitlyn for this, the majority of it lies with her grandparents, who have fostered and even financed this debacle while she lives at their house. What kind of people encourage their granddaughter to sue her own parents…their son? Most days I am sad, even depressed, that something so private is now so public. It’s only when I’m home with my wife or coaching my basketball players that I feel like myself. My ex and I want to help our daughter, we want her to be successful in life, but we would also like to have some influence in her life.

Maura and I are Caitlyn’s parents, so we want to have input and involvement in her decisions. Caitlyn, her attorney, and her grandparents want money. That’s it. The judge asked me in court on Monday if I had a college plan for my daughter. I presented the plan that includes financial help along with moving home and attending counseling. He asked the same of my daughter.  Her response, “I want them to pay for college.” The entire thing makes me sick to my stomach.

Caitlyn Ricci’s lawyer, Andrew Rochester, provided the following statement to Yahoo Parenting: “Since Caitlyn has moved in with her grandparents she has gotten into no trouble and her grades have gone up. She is a solid A/B college student and works a 30-hour job. Mr. Ricci should be proud of her accomplishments instead of disparaging because he doesn’t want to pay for her education. It really doesn’t matter if Caitlyn was going to Temple , Rutgers, Montclair State, or Harvard,  Mr. Ricci has made clear he wasn’t going to pay no matter what school Caitlyn went to. Mr. Ricci and Ms. McGarvey, based on their incomes, certainly have ability to pay, and we gave them options not to pay cash out of hand and they decided not to avail themselves of those options.”

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