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Gap Year Considerations

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More and more children are exploring "gap years"—that is, time off between the end of high school and the start of college or university. The reasons are varied: exploration, travel, maturity, health, indecision, and so on. Parents' views vary widely as well, depending both on the reasons for and the financial aspects associated with a gap year.

Because the city of Illinois requires parents to include a provision regarding paying for higher education for the children of divorce, the question of how to handle a gap year falls logically into that discussion.

Following are some of the questions that divorcing parents may need to address relating to the possibility of a gap year. Every family is different—even multiple children within one family can vary drastically—so there are no right answers. However, it's important to think ahead to formulate a plan.

If the child wants a gap year, does it automatically happen, or can the parents veto the idea based on set conditions?

  • If the latter, what might those conditions be?
  • Is the child permitted to participate in this discussion?

Does it matter whether there is a specific plan for the gap year? Is the time off for a particular pursuit, or due to lack of readiness for the next phase of life?

  • If the latter, who will determine whether the time off was productive in moving toward the next phase?
  • Is the child given enough information about what the standard for "success" is, in order to be able to manage his/her behavior and time accordingly? 

Does it matter whether the year is spent in the United States, abroad, or in multiple places?

Does it matter whether the gap year is for work or volunteering, or some combination?

Does it matter whether the child's way is being paid for by someone other than the parents - i.e. an organization or relative?

  • If so, will the parents contribute spending money, and in what proportion?
  • How will these financial guidelines be set? 

Does it matter whether the parents have to—or are being asked to—pay for the experience, or any part of it, such as travel?

  • If so, in what proportion?
  • Should the child contribute?
  • How does the child's contribution impact the proportions?

What if the child earns a salary? A stipend?

If the child lives at home, does child support continue?

  • Will this be allocated in the same amount? If not, how much?
  • For what duration will these funds be paid?
  • Will the parenting schedule remain the same? If different, will this alter the amount of support?

Will the child follow the same parenting time schedule?

  • If not, will there be a predetermined schedule? How will this be decided?
  • How will this potential change impact whether child support is paid?

Are any of these decisions impacted by whether the child wants to explore a gap year with a friend, or girl/boyfriend? 

Does whether either parent had a gap year him/herself factor into this discussion?

To discuss your needs, contact Brigitte Schmidt Bell, P.C., at Lawyers@bsbpc.com or via phone at 847.733.0933. 

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