MORRISTOWN, N.J. — A press conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday to announce that the New Jersey high school cheerleader who filed a lawsuit against her parents has reunited with her parents.
The parents hired a new lawyer Tuesday who said the case does not belong in the court system and should be settled "in a swift and amicable" way.
Rachel Canning, 18, "has returned home and reunited with her parents and siblings," the lawyer, Angelo Sarno, said Wednesday in a statement. "Her return home is not contingent on any financial and/or other considerations."
The private lives of Sean and Elizabeth Canning of Lincoln Park, N.J., and their torn relationship with daughter Rachel were thrown open to international scrutiny since their daughter filed a lawsuit Feb. 24 in the Family Division of state Superior Court here. It claims her parents cut her off financially when she turned 18 on Nov. 1, mostly because she would not break up with her boyfriend.
In her lawsuit, which lawyer John Inglesino, the father of Rachel Canning's best friend, had been financing, she had been seeking a declaration of non-emancipation — or continuing financial dependence on her family. Rachel Canning wanted Judge Peter Bogaard to award her $654 weekly in child support and make her parents pay her upcoming college tuition.
Inglesino, who has been taking a public bruising because of his involvement in what Sean and Elizabeth Canning contend is a private family matter, could not be reached immediately for comment. Rachel Canning's lawyer, Tanya Helfand, also was not immediately available.
Rachel Canning, a Morris Catholic High School senior, claimed her parents "constructively abandoned" her. She moved out of their house and had been living with the Inglesinos in Rockaway Township, N.J., since the beginning of November.
The law firm of Snyder & Sarno LLC in Roselawn, N.J. issued a statement Tuesday that said Sarno, a partner at the firm, now is representing the parents and requests privacy for them.
"The case has received widespread national media coverage as it directly challenges the degree to which government may or may not intervene in the rules and decisions parents must inevitably make for their children in intact families," the statement said.
"The case is without any legal merit," Sarno said. "Certain cases should not see the inside of a courtroom. This is one such case.
"Government cannot police the day-to-day financial affairs of parents and their children while the family is intact. The case must be resolved quickly between the parents and child, preferably without involvement of the court and/or legal counsel," he said. "The longer this case remains pending, the greater the divide created between parent and child will grow."
The high school honor student and lacrosse player left home Oct. 30, two days before she turned 18, after a tumultuous stretch during which her parents separated and reconciled and the teen began getting into uncharacteristic trouble at school. She has asked that her parents be ordered to settle an outstanding $5,306 Morris Catholic tuition bill; pay her current living and transportation expenses; and commit an existing college fund to their daughter, who has received acceptance letters from several universities and has to make a decision this spring.
Bogaard, who conducted a preliminary hearing here March 4, urged family therapy and reconciliation and said the case was in uncharted legal waters. Courts typically rule on college costs and college tuition fees when parents are divorcing.
"It is the goal of the Cannings to be present at their child's graduations, her wedding and at the birth of their grandchildren. That will never be a possibility until and unless this matter is brought to a swift and amicable conclusion," Sarno said. "If one cannot be reached, it is our intention to move expeditiously for a dismissal of this case on the basis it fails to state a claim for which legal relief can be granted. The Cannings want this matter behind them so they can begin the healing process with their family."
The case is likely to be dismissed before it is scheduled for trial April 22. If the trial were to continue, the judge would have to decide whether Rachel Canning is still non-emancipated and entitled to parental support or voluntarily emancipated herself by refusing to follow household rules and moving out.