Court Battle Over Parents Paying 21yr Old’s Tuition Continues

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A court battle in Camden County, New Jersey over who should pay college tuition for a 21-year-old girl’s education has continued as the parents charged with contributing funds are unwilling.

The case, Ricci v. Ricci, has garnered nationwide attention and Caitlyn Ricci, for the first time, has taken the stand to tell why her parents should pay her tuition for her out-of-state school, Temple University. The battle has ensued because her parents do not feel they should be forced to pay her $16,000 per year college fees. Wendy Saltzman of WLS-TV in Chicago writes that during the time in the courtroom, Ricci stated that she loved her parents, but believed that her parents, Michael Ricci and Maura McGarvey, did not understand how important a college education was to her.

“It is nice to see that she is alive and doing well, but it is hurtful because she wouldn’t look at us. When I got emotional in the courtroom and when Michael got emotional in the courtroom, she doesn’t have any emotion,” McGarvey said.

Even though the judge denied their request to reconsider his previous order for them to pay the tuition, the war is not over yet, because Caitlyn has filed a motion asking the judge to hold them in contempt of court for not paying.

“That’s fine. They can hold me in contempt of court. They can do whatever they want. I’m not going to pay. I’m not going to give them any money until my daughter has a relationship with me and we start to heal our family,” Michael Ricci said.

Caitlyn and her divorced parents have been estranged for two years. Her parents say this is because she would not follow house rules and she voluntarily moved out of the home.

The parents plan to appeal the decision, but the tuition was due November 12. Caitlyn has asked for a fine of $100 a day until her parents pay what she is owed. Caitlyn’s attorney adds that his client is not a spoiled brat, and she does not expect her parents to pay 100% of her college costs. Meanwhile Caitlyn’s parents are meeting with state lawmakers to discuss the changing of laws that treat divorced parents in a different way than those who are not divorced.

Caitlyn was in the Disney College Program, paid for by her parents, but was expelled because of underage drinking. She moved in with her paternal grandparents in Cherry Hills, New Jersey where Caitlyn’s mother tried to remain connected to her daughter through letters and poems. She did not hear back from her daughter. According to her parents, she bought a car after leaving her mother’s home, and now has her attorney demanding the money she spent on her automobile from her parents, says the Daily Mail‘s Lydia Warren.

Before suing for her Temple University tuition, Caitlyn sued her parents for her county college tuition in Pennsylvania. Her mother is an English teacher and her father is a high school basketball coach, but have agreed to pay her county college tuition by the first of January. They cannot, they say, afford to pay out-of-state college tuition, and they explain that their daughter did not apply for loans and scholarships for which she was eligible.

Caitlyn’s attorney countered that her parent’s combined household incomes are more than $272,000 a year. The attorney also stated that Caitlyn had paid some of the Temple fees with financial aid. Ricci’s grandfather thinks her parents should go to jail if they do not pay. Both parents have remarried and have younger children.

In an opinion piece by Karin Klein for the Los Angeles Times, Klein says it is hard to be a parent these days. Either parents are too involved, or they are not allowed to untie the apron strings. In the case of Caitlyn Ricci, the terms of her parents’ divorce state that her father would not have to pay for her higher education if she was not living with one of her parents. More importantly, says Klein, Caitlyn is an adult, and parents cannot be forced to pay for the higher education of a child who is already an adult.

The problem started when, in 1982, this judicial decision was made:

“In general, financially capable parents should contribute to the higher education of children who are qualified students.”

But, should a judge be making the decision, when financial advisors are saying let students take out loans instead of draining parents’ retirement money?  Yes, higher education is important, and most parents want to ensure that their children have it – but Klein says that when the child becomes an adult, the legal obligation should end.