Suspension or Denial of Licenses for Child Support Arrearages

In order to improve the effectiveness of child support collections, states are required to enact laws to deny or suspend the driver's license or professional license of anyone found to have failed to pay his or her child support obligation.

Authority to Suspend a License

As part of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, states were compelled to enact statutes to suspend or revoke driving licenses and professional licenses of parents who fail to pay child support. When a parent's child support obligation is in arrears, the tribunal or agency responsible for enforcing child support collections may initiate actions to suspend or revoke the license of the parent who failed to pay. The agency will send out a notice that the license will be suspended within a given number of days, unless the parent can show that the child support arrearage has been paid or requests in writing a hearing on the matter so that the parent can present any legitimate defenses he or she may have for failing to pay child support. The parent may also work with the agency to develop a plan to pay the arrearage. If the parent cannot come to an arrangement with the agency to pay the past due amount and cannot present a valid defense, the agency will notify the state motor vehicle department to suspend or revoke the driving license. It will also notify the proper state official to suspend or revoke the parent's professional license.

Application of the Suspension Law

The amount of arrearage required to trigger the suspension or revocation of a license varies from state to state. Some states merely require that the arrearage be substantial; other states require an arrearage of at least three months; still others find that a parent is in compliance with the court order of support where the parent is no more than 30 days in arrears. A license may be suspended when the parent is not in compliance with the court order of support. The state agency is required to maintain a list of all parents obligated to pay child support who are not in compliance with the order to pay. A list of such names is to be submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services on a monthly basis.

If a parent's license is in jeopardy of being suspended, it is important that the parent respond to the notice of proposed suspension within the time given in the notice. Some states give as little as 30 days notice, while others give up to 150 days to allow the parent time to arrange to pay the arrearage. Where the license is necessary for the parent to earn the money needed to pay child support, this information must be presented. The goal is to have the parent pay child support, not to totally prevent him from working. However, revoking a license as a punishment may be warranted.