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Revoking Licenses To Collect Child Support
Recently, Congress came to the realization that one way to encourage parents to pay child support is to revoke the driver's licenses, professional licenses, recreational licenses and passports of parents who fail to pay. Hoping to increase child support collections and thereby lessen the burden of welfare on taxpayers, Congress included license revocation requirements in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. Under that act, states must pass laws that provide for the revocation of the licenses of parents who fail to pay child support. The U.S. Secretary of State also must refuse to issue a passport, or must revoke the passport, of a person who is certified by a state agency to have past-due child support exceeding $5,000.

Typically, a state agency is in charge of revoking the license of a person who has failed to pay child support. Many states stipulate a certain dollar amount that must be owed, or a time period of delinquency that must be met, before license revocation proceedings may be filed. Usually, some sort of notice is given to the payor that action will be taken against his or her license unless child support is paid within a certain period. Some states provide the payor with a temporary license that is good for a few months but terminates unless child support is paid. Each state has different license revocation procedures, so you should check with your child support caseworker, or the agency in charge of issuing the license, to find out which procedures apply in your case.

There are several things to consider when trying to have a payor's license revoked for nonpayment of child support. Revocation may be automatic, but it may be difficult for states to set up procedures that provide proper notice to the agencies in charge of revoking licenses. Therefore, you should become familiar with the various licensing laws of your state so that you can take matters into your own hands, if necessary. The following summaries may be helpful.

Driver's license
All states have a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or similar agency that takes care of matters related to driver's licenses. The DMV keeps track of things such as who has a driver's license and who is in danger of losing a driver's license due to traffic violations; it also administers the testing programs that enable a person to obtain a driver's license.

If you are owed child support and feel that the payor's driver's license should be revoked to encourage payment, you should contact your state's DMV. It should not be difficult to locate the proper person within the DMV to report the payor's delinquency. Just call the main DMV telephone number and ask to be connected to the department in charge of revoking the licenses of those who fail to pay child support.

You should be prepared to provide the DMV with information such as the payor's name, date of birth and Social Security number. You should also be prepared to provide information about your child support order, such as the court in which it was entered, the date it was entered, the amount of unpaid support and the name and telephone number of your child support caseworker, if any.

Professional license
Certain professions require a license. Lawyers, barbers, nurses, real estate agents, teachers and many other professionals cannot earn a living in their field unless they hold a valid license or certificate granting them the right to practice. Unfortunately, professional licenses are much less common among child support payors than driver's licenses. However, if your payor has a professional license, you can use it as a powerful tool in your child support collection efforts. The holder of a professional license has likely spent a great deal of time, effort and money to obtain that license and will often do whatever is necessary to hold onto it. If paying past-due child support is necessary to continue to earn a living, most people will make the payment required.

Arranging to have a professional license revoked will likely be very similar to the procedure involved with having a driver's license revoked. You should begin by notifying a child support agency caseworker of the past-due support and that the payor holds a professional license. If possible, obtain details of the license, such as the address and telephone number of the agency that issued the license, the date the license was issued, the type of license and other identifying information, such as the payor's date of birth and Social Security number. You should provide this information to the child support collection caseworker.

It would also be a good idea to contact the licensing agency and determine whether there is a specific person within the agency to contact about license revocation for failure to pay child support. Once you learn that person's identity, you should contact him or her and provide as much information about the payor and the payor's license as possible.

If you or the child support collection agency take action to revoke the payor's professional license, be prepared to get some variation of the following complaint from the payor: You want me to pay child support, but how am I supposed to make payments if you take away the only means I have to earn a living? This, of course, is a very good question, and you might want to be prepared to respond with a sensible and logical response, although you do not have to provide any response at all. Unpaid child support is a serious matter, and payors who fail to provide that support have only themselves to blame.

Feel free to ignore the payor's complaints. On the other hand, if you want to respond, try simply pointing out that you understand that this is a drastic step, and that it's a step that you would have preferred not to take, but that you are in dire need of the support and that your children have been suffering because there are many things they need that you have not been able to afford.

Consider leaving the door open to settlement at this point. After all, you do want the payor to earn a good living so that full payment can ultimately be made. You could agree to arrangements that assure regular payments of the court-ordered monthly support, together with an additional portion to be paid each month and applied toward the amount owed. That way, the payor gets back to work, child support payments are made and you have hopefully gotten the payor's attention.

Recreational license
Recreational licenses may also be revoked for failure to pay child support. You might think that revocation of recreational licenses is not a very powerful child support enforcement tool. But in some cases it may work better than revocation of a driver's license or professional license.

To understand why, you must first realize that for some people the right to hunt, fish and enjoy the great outdoors means more than the right to drive a car or work at a particular occupation. For these people, the revocation of a driver's license or professional license prevents them from doing things that are not all that enjoyable, such as fighting traffic and dealing with a stressful job. Revocation of a recreational license, on the other hand, prevents them from doing the things they very much enjoy doing.

Once again, if your payor is a hunter or a fisher, make certain that your child support agency caseworker knows about this and takes steps to either revoke the payor's recreational license or prevents him or her from getting one. If you want to take matters into your own hands, call your state's fish and game commission and ask for information about revocation of recreational licenses for failure to pay child support.

A passport is a lot like a license. In a sense, it is a license to travel the world. If your payor has to leave the United States for business, or has plans to take a vacation abroad, revocation of his or her passport may force payment of past-due child support.

You may also be owed child support by a person who has family abroad or who would like to return to his or her native country to live or visit. The new federal child support enforcement law will prevent the payor from leaving the country. The payor will have to postpone his or her business or pleasure trips until the child support has been paid.

The U.S. Secretary of State is responsible for issuing passports. The new federal law requires state agencies to certify to the Secretary of State that a payor owes child support in excess of $5,000. When this is done, the Secretary of State must refuse to issue a passport to the payor and may revoke or limit the passport of a payor who already possesses a passport. You should contact the child support enforcement agency, or directly contact the U.S. Secretary of State, to inquire about action against the passport of a payor who has failed to pay child support.

Other licenses
Federal law mandated states to enact laws providing for the revocation of driver's licenses, professional licenses and recreational licenses. Many states have gone even further than what the federal law required. For example, the state of California may revoke or deny a commercial fisher's license to anyone who is delinquent in paying child support.

Cities have also taken up the child support collection torch. In Chicago, taxi drivers cannot receive the medallions that they need to do business if they are delinquent in their child support payments. In fact, if a taxi driver is delinquent in his or her child support payments, the city may sell the medallion (which is worth approximately $40,000) at auction and have the proceeds paid to the person entitled to receive the support. The city of Chicago also has the power to delay issuing licenses, contracts, loans and employment to people who are delinquent in their child support payments.

Collecting Child Support, Gregory C. Damman, J.D.
Copyright © 1997 Self Counsel Press

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