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WHEN ARE WE “ON OUR OWN”?

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 16, 2015

BRYCE ON LIFE

– I thought the magic number was 18?

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)

To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

Last month I was reading about a 21 year old New Jersey woman, Caitlyn Ricci, who sued her parents to pay for her college tuition. Evidently, the family had a stormy past; her mother Maura McGarvey, an English teacher, and Michael Ricci, a high school basketball coach, are divorced and remarried to others. The mother raised Caitlyn in her house until she was 19, whereupon she was turned out for not living by the rules of the house, such as getting a job, performing chores around the house, and going to school. It gets even muddier when you consider Caitlyn’s paternal grandparents are helping her, thereby suing their own son.

Surprisingly, a judge found in Caitlyn’s favor; for the parents to pay her tuition, citing a 1982 New Jersey landmark case where the court ruled divorced parents are responsible for providing for their children’s education. It should be noted, Caitlyn hasn’t lived with either of her parents for the last two years and refuses to have any contact with them. Nonetheless, the parents have been ordered to pay $16,000 for her tuition at an out of state school, Temple. Regardless of the judge’s decision, the father vows not to pay the fee and face contempt charges instead. Understandably, a lot of parents across the country are rallying behind the parents.

This case was similar to the 2013 Rachel Canning case, also from New Jersey. The case made headlines as Rachel sued her parents for college tuition. Like the Ricci case, the family suffered from some severe squabbles regarding the daughter’s conduct at home, and her choice of boyfriend. She later dropped the suit. However, Rachel was back in the news recently, receiving a domestic violence restraining order against the same boyfriend her parents disliked earlier.

Three things come to mine when I read of such cases:

First, we now live in an age where it is difficult to discipline our children, thanks in large part to anti-corporal punishment laws. If the parents own the house, the children are under their rule, not the other way around. I obviously do not know the family dynamics of the Riccis and Cannings, but there is clear evidence there is a breakdown in the family unit. I suspect the parents waited too long to discipline their children. Now they are paying for it.

Second, a college education is a privilege, not a right. If it was an entitlement, the public would be paying for it. They do not, which is why I am puzzled by the 1982 New Jersey law.

And finally, I thought you were recognized as an adult or, at least, of legal age when you turned 18 years old. I even went so far as to look it up:

18 – Age of maturity – (except Alabama (19), Nebraska (19 or upon marriage), Puerto Rico (21) and Mississippi (21))
17 – Age of criminal responsibility
14 – Minimum age to work, 18 – Unrestricted
18 – Marriage
16-17 – The age by which you can leave school (this varies from state to state)
18 – Voting age
21 – Drinking age

Again, this makes me wonder why the parents are being blackmailed into paying for Caitlyn Ricci’s college tuition. She is obviously recognized as a mature independent adult. If she can hire an attorney for such proceedings, she can certainly find the means to pay for her tuition on her own. This case should be thrown out of court. I fail to see how a judge can order the parents to pay for their children if they are legally recognized as “on their own.”

Maybe there is something unique to New Jersey that brings out the worst in people. Then again, maybe we should just file this story under, “Attorneys Gone Wild.”

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  DOES AMERICA KNOW HOW TO COOK? – Believe me, we’re not alone in not knowing.

LAST TIME:  YOUR DUTIES AS AN EMPLOYEE  – It is more than what is written on paper.

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8 Responses to “WHEN ARE WE “ON OUR OWN”?”

  1. Tim Bryce said

    A K.S. of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma wrote…

    “I’m with the parents.”

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    An M.D. of New York wrote…

    “The answer to the question in the title is:

    “When there is no longer anyone else to take things from”.

    Or, so the recent age has come to be, at least.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    (Tim’s Note: Do yourself a favor and read this letter I received; a true testament about what it means to be “on our own”.)

    A B.H. of Boulder, Colorado wrote…

    “Part of this kind of problem (kids suing parents) is society being currently over-enamored with settling arguments between family members by litigation to get what people want. Lawyers, being lawyers, take on clients with dubious claims and manage to successfully argue in court – or usually threaten to go to court to get a settlement – thus perpetuating a grossly overtaxed system that fosters these settlement games in the first place. It gets even more complicated when you realize that once you start a school as an out-of-state student, you can not change status to an in-state student, even though you are an independent adult living on your own IN the state where you are going to school, paying taxes, voting, and working (lawyers making laws again).

    I don’t know when the “entitled generation” came around, but I was born in 1947. When I was 19 I told my parents I was going to get married (back then in Oklahoma, boys under 21 had to have parental permission) I did not get any blow back from them, but then I didn’t get any financial help from them while I was in school either. The only help my father was able to provide was a place to live and food on the table. Everything else was up to me. I was married at 20. When I left home, I left the “shelter” of my parents and began living on my own with my new wife. She did likewise – in fact, her father stuck out his hand and demanded his credit card before he would let her go into the church for the ceremony. We remained close with both sets of parents, but we NEVER went back to them for financial help … probably out of pride more than anything else.

    While my wife’s parents were well-enough off to pay her tuition and room and board at SMU and later at Tulsa University, mine were unable to pay for my college, so I had to work 40 hours a week at $1.25/hr as a geophysical replay technician (fancy word for saying I took the field dynamite shots from oil well exploration and translated them into different tape formats for the degreed geophysicists to find the oil) to pay my way through the University of Tulsa in my Freshman year. Once we got married (in my sophomore year), I dropped my hours back to about half time – changing jobs to Amerada Hess as a Paleontology lab technician looking at core cuttings from the North Sea exploration efforts, and my new wife (who was burned out in school) dropped out after the end of her junior year to work as a computer programmer for Standard Oil in Tulsa. Between the two of us, if we ended the month with a spare dollar, we celebrated by going out to McDonald’s for a pair of cheeseburgers, fries, and cokes (and we got a dime back in change). We were proud to make it on our own … even though our apartment was decorated in early relative and orange crates and was not in a particularly “nice” part of town. When I graduated, I went to OCS and was commissioned an Ensign in the Navy, and both of us left Oklahoma permanently for the first time in our lives. My salary? $211/month after deductions in 1969. My wife found work pretty much wherever I was stationed, although I did sort of coerce her into finishing her degree in Newport RI in 1973. Over the years, both before and after she got her degree, she made more money than I did as an officer in the navy. This was true until probably the mid 1980’s when I was a LCDR and when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis after a car accident and was no longer able to work.

    The only thing I did for my two daughters was to try to help them with college so they did not have to work while pursuing their degrees. I know how hard that was, and I was able to successfully help my oldest become a registered pharmacist – although she has a decent sized student loan she is finishing paying for. The youngest was a bit more of a challenge. Public schools just didn’t work for her, so I had to put her into a private school to get through high school. She didn’t like my “rules” after my wife died, and she literally moved out of the house 3 days after turning 18. She took jobs in retail to pay for her rent and board in an apartment complex while starting courses at the Art Institute of Colorado in Denver. That lasted about a semester, she moved over to Metropolitan State College for a semester, and then came to the conclusion that this wasn’t working for her and decided to enroll in an 18 month course to become a Medical Assistant. She’s an MA in an OB/GYN practice today – and runs an independent satellite office with rotating providers. Both of my girls are on their own, the youngest now married with a 3 year old daughter of her own. It’s amazing how they grew into responsible adults (even though BOTH of them told me “being an adult sucks, dad”.) In fact, when my youngest was planning her wedding, and because my wife had died, I asked her if she wanted/needed my help since there wasn’t a “mom” to help her out. Being a former Honored Queen in Job’s Daughters, she looked at me and simply said: “Dad, if I could plan an Honored Queen’s term on my own, I can certainly plan a wedding on my own too.” (Nuff said)

    When my youngest decided to get married, I simply told her to plan the wedding as though I would not be able to help her financially at all. Then, as we went through the process, I would tell her what I felt I could do to help. It was my CHOICE, not an obligation since she was an adult (over 21) and living out of the house. In the end, I did help her, and the cost of the wedding ended up being less than HALF the typical weddings of her friends at the time. My eldest is buying her own home in Montana. At 36, if she decides to get married, she’ll definitely be on her own now.

    So, these kids who think they are ENTITLED to an education paid for by their parents are part of a generation that has never been asked or forced to fend for themselves. They’ve always had mommy and daddy to rely on, and suddenly they’re thrown into the big bad world where “being an adult sucks” and they weren’t prepared for it. Boo Hoo. Life is hard. Get used to it.

    I do not believe we can or should bring back the “draft” into the military, but I do believe that the generations that had the draft facing them grew up and became independent faster because they were forced to do so. Military units don’t sympathize with you or your personal problems … at least they didn’t when I was in (I’ve been retired from the navy for 25 years now). Every child should be expected to return at least two years of service in some manner to this country for what it gives them. It can be in military service, but plainly that’s not for everyone. So, Peace Corps, VISTA, whatever – and in the process, they learn what it’s all about to be an adult and make life-altering decisions and be accountable for them. And, by “what it gives them” – I mean the right to vote as well as other intangible aspects of being an adult. If they aren’t responsible enough to shoulder at least some service to the country, they don’t need a voice in running it. And, if you made it a requirement for national service of any kind before you could be elected to public office or be appointed to the bench, I suspect you’d see an entirely different outlook by the politicians charged with running the country. Alas, I doubt it will ever happen, because the entitled generation is already ensconced in power and isn’t likely to give it up willingly.

    We (society) talk a good game about 18 year olds being adults (but we don’t let them drink until 21…hmmm). They can legally sign contracts that are binding on them (not their parents), they can marry without permission, they are considered independent adult human beings in the courts for violations of the law (parents are NOT required to appear with them in court like they are when they are minors). I think in order to be elected to the House of Representatives, they have to be 25, and the Senate they have to be 30 or 35. I don’t think there is any age limitation on appointments to the courts, but practicality indicates that they would have to be at least 30 to get the degree and enough experience to justify an appointment to the bench.

    So, it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER that a judge sitting somewhere should say that parents are REQUIRED to pay for college …. after all, not everyone wants to go or SHOULD go to college. Unlike public schools which are funded by property taxes and where the child is required to attend until they are at least 16, college is an OPTION, and is NOT paid for by taxes on property. Colleges MAY receive augmented funding from the states, but again that is independent of the PARENTS themselves. Frankly, I’m surprised that some of the parents do not appeal these rulings to their state supreme courts. (We both know going to SCOTUS is hideously expensive, takes a long time, and has no guarantee that the SC will even agree to hear the case.) Generally speaking, once a state SC rules, the arguments stop there unless the lawyers are extremely aggressive and have a client with deep pockets.”

    Like

  4. In reality, what our society has is a fairly straightforward system of assigning rights and, ostensibly, responsibilities to a person who reaches a certain age, while at the same time erecting a massive ‘safety net’ of legal exceptions (either defined or potential) to make it all but totally unnecessary for anyone to ever be forced to live with the consequences of his/her own bad decisions.

    The case begs an obvious question: “At what age, if ever, are parents of an adult ‘child’ absolved of further responsibility for educational expenses…or anything else?” The propensity of the courts to step into family disputes that might otherwise be resolved as just that has an incredible potential for creating tangled legal webs. That, no less obviously, is just what litigators love!

    For example: a minor child (so, on the surface of it, a situation uncomplicated by age issues) finds herself pregnant. According to case law, now thoroughly entrenched in the policies of ‘reproductive health clinics,’ parents have no right to be consulted or even to be aware of ‘treatment’ prescribed and carried out by the clinic in an effort to ‘help’ the girl address her problem. This reality, however, does not absolve parents of the obligation to provide competent medical care for a minor. As a result, the parents are potentially liable (presumably along with the clinic) for the outcome of the treatment decision made by the clinic in concert with their minor child, even though they had no legal right to either (1) know about the treatment or (2) be involved in the details of the decision. To make matters even more bizarre, the girl might well have been ‘referred’ to the clinic by a professional in her public school: a person who had no legal standing to give the girl an aspirin without permission from her parents, but who nonetheless enjoys legal protection vis-a-vis the decision to assist the girl in protecting her reproductive rights!

    Anyone else feel like they’ve gone through the looking glass?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim Bryce said

      Bill – Great response. I see this as another attack on the family unit. As you say, at some point siblings have to assume responsibility for their actions. Parents can only show the way.

      Like

      • Parents, unfortunately, end up as neither fish nor fowl, legally speaking, in such scenarios: robbed of authority while never being completely absolved of responsibility. No rational person would ever enter into such a contract voluntarily, but evolving precedent prevents even the ability to predict what one’s future obligations might be!

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  5. […] WHEN ARE WE “ON OUR OWN”? […]

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  6. […] Teaching Morality” “Why Oldsters are Mean” “The Meaning of Life” “When are we on our Own?” “The Secret of Happiness (a short story)” “The Frustration Factor” […]

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