I know you can of course, but the thought is mind-boggling to me. Yet that’s exactly what Caitlyn Ricci did. She sued her parents to pay for her college education and she won! And what’s more, she’s not even the first person to try this. (See Rachel Canning link, below).
My knee jerk reaction to this was “what a bratty and entitled person.” I cannot for the life of me fathom taking my parents to court for any reason, much less to demand that they pay tuition for a voluntary college education that I elected to pursue. Although we never went without, I did not come from a family of any sort of exceptional means. There was no education fund and so when I decided to be the first in my family to attend college, I pursued alternate means of financing and I did much of the legwork on my own.
My parents helped out as much as they were able to, not necessarily in the actual payment of tuition, but they saw me through the day-by-day of the broke college student’s life, frequently adding funds to my checking account to ensure that I had food and necessities, and saving my butt on more than a few occasions when I came up short on the rent. For that I am eternally grateful, and perhaps that’s why it’s so hard for me to wrap my head around doing something so cold and divisive as suing them. I mean, just what kind of person does that? But it’s when I voiced just that question that it occurred to me: there may be much more to this story than we are privy to.
For some time I worked for an investment company and as part of overseeing client disbursements, I regularly had to review QDROs (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) to ensure that we were properly allocating funds as was court ordered. In many cases, these legal documents did specifically state that the applicable parent was required to fund a child’s post-secondary education expenses. So there it is, in black and white, and the parent signed on the dotted line (perhaps not willingly, but signed nonetheless). So it should be no surprise to them that they would be expected to uphold it.
Expected, maybe, but enforced by the child suing? That’s still taking it pretty far. But do we really know her story? Maybe her parents were deadbeats or neglectful? Certainly there is a reason why she hasn’t spoken to them in the past two years. Most reasonably functional families with some level of love and/or connection to one another don’t just out of the blue estrange themselves for no good reason whatsoever. And maybe, just maybe, if I had a questionable childhood and deadbeat parents whom it was unhealthy for me to be around, and they were also without question more than able to afford my education then I might pursue legal action for those expenses. Might. Because even if they were just crappy parents and I had a terrible childhood, that still doesn’t mean that they have to pay anything for me after I turn 18 and become an adult in the eyes of the law. But in the above specific scenario in which there is also a QDRO that they knowingly signed, then maybe the very least they could do is uphold their own legally documented promise.
Or maybe she really is just a self-entitled spoiled brat, which certainly seemed to be more the case with Rachel Canning’s lawsuit. Either way, it’s a sad story. And it makes me ever more grateful for the parents and family I was blessed to receive. They may not have had an excess of money, but they certainly had an excess of love. They’ve always done everything in their power to help my siblings and I. And they were the immeasurable support and backbone seeing me through college so that I could pave an even smoother road for my own babies.