Malia Obama recently announced that she will be attending Harvard University in the fall of 2017. However, prior to commencing her studies at Harvard, she plans to take a year off as a “gap year.” This gap year allows students to travel, explore hobbies, spend time with family members, take classes that may help them decide what career they want to pursue, or even work. The gap year can be beneficial as it allows individuals to mature, focus or develop their interests, or just enjoy life as young adults. Who would not want to have the opportunity to take a gap year?
However, in Missouri the gap year can present issues with respect to the payment of child support and other financial support for a child. The Missouri child support statute requires that for the child support obligation to extend past a child’s high school graduation, he or she must be enrolled in an institution of higher or vocational education by October 1st following the high school graduation or completion of a GED program. If a child does not enroll by this date, then a parent’s obligation to pay child support ends. This means that not only does the direct payment of child support from one parent to the other end, but the parent’s obligations to maintain health and dental insurance, pay for a portion of any uncovered medical expenses, and pay for the costs of the college or the vocational program that the child wants to attend after the gap year also end. That outcome could be financially disastrous.
It is possible that an agreement can be reached with the other parent to allow the child to take a gap year and continue to be entitled to parental support. However, this agreement would need to be in writing in a court order prior to the gap year occurring. This will not be a feasible option in the majority of cases.
So, if you are the recipient of child support for a child nearing completion of high school, and he or she mentions a gap year, beware! You should consult an attorney immediately to discuss the consequences and your options, and you may need to have a tough conversation with your child.
The family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal have many years of experience dealing with these and a host of other issues related to your child’s care and support.