A 21-year-old woman from New Jersey, who had sued her divorced parents to pay her college tuition, filed a motion this week asking the court to fine them $100 a day for contempt of court until they ante up.
Caitlyn Ricci, 21, sued her parents, Michael Ricci and Maura McGarvey, in 2013, when she left her mother’s home. She moved in with her paternal grandparents. In October 2013, Judge Thomas J. Shusted ruled that her parents should be forced to pay her tuition at New Jersey’s public Gloucester County College with the proviso that she attempt to secure scholarships and loans. Her parents claim that she didn’t apply for financial aid, so they felt they were exempt from the judge’s decree.
Ricci then asked the court to look into the matter again, as she had transferred to Temple University, and the tuition was higher than Gloucester County College. On Halloween, 2014, Judge Donald J. Stein ruled that Ricci’s parents pay over $16,000 yearly for their daughter’s tuition. McGarvey said, “Anyone who hears this story thinks it’s crazy, and no one can believe that this case saw the inside of a courtroom. But it did. And I lost.” Her attorney, Stephanie Brown, called the case “a tragedy. It’s horrible…It’s completely broken apart this family.” Michael Ricci simply said, “This thing is killing me.”
Ricci refused to pay, and noted that his daughter has not spoken to him or his wife in two years. He added, “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.” McGarvey said, “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.”
Ricci is relying on her paternal grandparents to pay her legal costs.
Ricci’s parents divorced when she was four years old. By age 18, according to her mother, the parents found out she was drinking, and in February 2013, she moved out. McGarvey said she warned her daughter that if she left home, her parents would not cover her expenses.
Michael Ricci and McGarvey said initially that the hearings over the tuition matter were a chance for them to see their estranged daughter again. Michael Ricci suspected his parents encouraged his daughter to file the lawsuit. He said, “I have zero respect for my parents for what they’ve done and how they’ve handled the situation. They’re the ones who are responsible for tearing my family apart and tearing my daughter away.”