Divorced Parents Appeal Court Decision That Would Make Them Pay For Estranged Daughter’s College Tuition

Despite the fact that she is an adult and doesn’t live with either of her parents, Caitlyn Ricci has been able to successfully sue them, twice, to pay her college tuition. As Yahoo! reported, the first time she sued her parents, the amount was nominal, $906, for her tuition at Rowan College located in Pennsylvania. Now, she is suing to get them to pay $16,000 for tuition at Philadelphia’s Temple University. However, her parents, Michael Ricci and Maura McGarvey, are appealing the decision.

The New Jersey couple is divorced and their daughter hasn’t lived with either of them since she was kicked out of her mother’s home for disobeying rules they had sat down for her. The young woman had been caught drinking underage and refused to abide by a curfew and to do chores as her parents required of her. Even though they are divorced, McGarvey and Ricci presented a united front on the rules that were set for their daughter.

When she didn’t agree with their rules, Caitlyn decided to move in with her grandparents in February, 2013. McGarvey recounted the dispute about the rules in her blog.

“This plan included a full-time job, household chores, a curfew, and for her to register for three summer classes. The only part of our plan that she had a problem with was the three summer classes. She chose to move out of my house instead of following the rules we established. She packed her things, and moved into her paternal grandparent’s house.”

Ricci’s attorney disputed the mother’s account, saying that Caitlyn was thrown out of the house, but McGarvey wrote that her daughter knew the consequences of moving out, including not having her education paid for by her parents.

“I was very clear with Caitlyn about what [moving out] would mean for her – her father would no longer be required to pay child support, I would no longer have the money to help her pay for college, etc. More than once, I told her that she could come home. She didn’t want to. She wanted to live without any rules, with basically no contact with either of her parents or their families, and she wanted her father and I to pay for it. Within a few months of living at her grandparents, Caitlyn retained a lawyer and sued her father and me for college contribution (and a new car.)”

McGarvey is an English teacher and her ex-husband is a high school basketball coach, so they cannot afford the out-of-state tuition their daughter wants them to pay. Her parents did offer to help with tuition, but only for an in-state school in New Jersey. Even though the court agreed with Ricci and her attorney by ordering her parents to pay the $16,000, the couple refused and faced possible contempt charges.

Caitlyn Ricci's parents, Michael Ricci and Maura McGarvey [Image from ABC News]
Caitlyn Ricci’s parents, Michael Ricci and Maura McGarvey
[Image from ABC News]
However, the New York Post reported that the judge who wrote the original order, Judge Donald Stein, has refused to hold the parents in contempt for ignoring his order. Instead, the case will now go to an appeals court and, until the case is resolved, Ricci and McGarvey will not have to pay the tuition their daughter is demanding.

Judge Stein used a precedent that exists in New Jersey called “Newburgh.” That precedent states that divorced parents may be required to contribute to a child’s education, no matter their age. However, the New Jersey legislature is working on a bill that would help restore some of the parental rights to cases such as this one.

In another similar case in New Jersey, a 18-year-old woman sued her parents for financial support after she made the decision to leave home. As the Inquisitr reported, a judge had refused the teen’s request for financial support and she had also sued them for tuition. This case has a bit of a happier ending though as the teenager returned home to her family.

In the meantime, Caitlyn hasn’t spoken to her parents in over two years, which her father describes as “heart breaking.” The entire family seems to have chosen sides as it was Caitlyn’s paternal grandparents that helped pay for the attorney representing her in the lawsuit.

[Image via Facebook]

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