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By Andrea Peyser
December 19, 2014

It's time to teach this brat a lesson

The legal case that’s rocking New Jersey begs some tough questions: Are young people in the Garden State more likely than those who grow up elsewhere to turn into entitled, spoiled brats?
Or does a chorus of Jersey adults enable the delinquency of rotten spawn?

It’s clear from the case of Caitlyn Ricci, the 21-year-old who’s suing her estranged parents for tuition money — and is winning! — that no one in charge of this twisted fiasco has the slightest bit of concern for parental authority or for the discipline of a troubled young adult.

“This is a nightmare every day,” Caitlyn’s father, Michael Ricci, 44, a sales manager for the UL safety consulting and certification company, told me.

“She is my daughter,” he said. “Her mother and I love her unconditionally. I miss her. She knows what kind of damage she’s doing, not only to herself but to her parents.’’

This bizarre case of family dysfunction started early last year, when Caitlyn, then 19, entered into an internship with The Walt Disney Company in Florida but was kicked out for underage drinking three weeks after starting the program. Caitlyn returned to the Washington Township, NJ, home of her mom (her parents are divorced) and was asked by her folks to obey a strict curfew, get a job, perform chores and take three college classes. Not unreasonable.

Instead, Caitlyn moved into the Cherry Hill, NJ, house of her paternal grandparents. (She claimed, through her lawyer, that she was thrown out of her mom’s place, which her parents dispute.) Now she lives with Angela, 65, and Matthew Ricci, 67, whom, Caitlyn’s dad said, are financing her money-grubbing lawsuit.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get uglier, a judge last year ordered Caitlyn’s dad and her mom, Maura McGarvey, 42, a public-school teacher from Washington Township, to fork over $906 for tuition to a community college she attended. Then in fall, Caitlyn hauled her parents back into court and demanded they pay about $16,000 of her $26,000 tuition bill this year at Philadelphia’s Temple University. Incredibly, a judge last month ruled that Ricci and McGarvey must pay up, citing a 1982 New Jersey law that requires divorced parents to foot higher-education bills, even after a youngster turns 18.

“We feel we are discriminated against because we are divorced,’’ said Michael Ricci, who lives in Haddon Heights, NJ, with his second wife, a daughter and two sons. “If she goes for her master’s degree or Ph.D., is there no end to this?

“The hard part is this entire thing would have never happened if her grandparents told her to come home, work this thing out with us,’’ added the dad, who hasn’t gotten along with his own parents for years. Caitlyn’s mom lives with her second husband and two sons.

This month, Caitlyn filed a motion to find her parents in contempt of court for failing to pay.

“The only thing I’m saying is, you’re only hearing one side of the story,” her grandpa told me.

“She had problems,” Caitlyn’s lawyer, Andrew Rochester, admitted. But since enrolling at Temple, he said, his client has earned A’s and B’s and works a 30-hour-a-week job.

“Her parents just don’t want to pay for her college,” he said.

Readers may remember the case of Rachel Canning, another bratty young adult from New Jersey. Earlier this year, Canning, 18, rebelled against household rules enforced by her parents, who are still married, and moved into the house of her best friend. She sued her folks for private high-school and college tuition, plus other expenses, in a suit paid for by her friend’s clueless lawyer father. But the young lady dropped the suit and moved back home.

Michael Ricci told me he won’t give his daughter a dime until she moves back to her mom’s house, transfers to a school in New Jersey and begins to mend her relationship with the people who gave her life. On Dec. 22, the fractured family will again meet in court — the only place the dad and his ex-wife have seen their daughter in nearly two years.

Drop the case, Caitlyn, and show some respect to your parents. Judges and grandparents need to butt out, too. This madness must end.

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