Parents Ordered to Pay Estranged Daughter's College Tuition

Judge says parents must pay $16,000 per year.

ByABC News
November 13, 2014, 3:24 PM

— -- A New Jersey woman has successfully sued her estranged parents to pay for her college tuition.

A judge in Camden County, New Jersey, ruled that Caitlyn Ricci's biological parents will have to cough up $16,000 each year so Ricci, 21, can continue classes across the Delaware River at Temple University in Pennsylvania, ABC News station WPVI in Philadelphia reported.

The parents' attorney is appealing the judge's decision, her mother, Maura McGarvey, told ABC News. She said she's shocked her own daughter would sue her.

"Of course, it's not anything you ever imagine," she said between tears. "I feel like I tried very hard to raise my child right."

Caitlyn’s attorney, Andrew Rochester, told ABC News that legal proceedings began toward the end of August 2013 "after two months of attempting to negotiate with the parents and their attorneys."

Maura McGarvey and her daughter in an undated photo.

The parents had already filed a motion to emancipate their daughter.

Ricci's parents' marriage only lasted two-and-a-half years. Caitlyn lived with her mother but also saw her father, the couple said.

"She comes from two loving families and she was given what she wanted when she was growing up," her father, Michael Ricci, told WPVI.

McGarvey described her daughter as a rebellious teenager who left home and moved in with her grandparents in February because she didn't want to follow her mother's rules, putting stress on the family's relationship. She said the only time she has seen her daughter since she started at Temple University was in a courtroom.

Maura McGarvey and her daughter Caitlyn Ricci during happier times.

"She packed her stuff and moved in with my ex-in-laws," McGarvey said.

Rochester told ABC News Caitlyn was unavailable for comment. He told WPVI her parents were to blame for the separation.

"Caitlyn did not voluntarily leave the home. She was thrown out by her mother," Rochester told WPVI.

"Caitlyn really is a good girl. She is the nicest, sweetest girl," he added. "All she wants is to go to college."

A judge said divorced parents may be required to contribute to their children's education, according to WPVI.

Caitlyn's grandparents are paying her legal fees, according to WPVI.

This story has been updated to correct the timeline of Caitlyn Ricci’s lawsuit. Her mother initially said she received court papers before Mother’s Day 2013, but later said that statement was in error. Caitlyn’s attorney, Andrew Rochester, said legal proceedings actually began in August 2013.