In divorce situations involving children, it is common for the non-custodial parent to pay child support. In New York, child support payments are calculated by the court based on numerous factors, including the number of children in the household.
The payment is required by law and there are numerous penalties for non-payment. Some of the penalties for non-payment include tax liens, property liens, and wage garnishments.
All 50 states also have rules allowing the suspension of one’s driver’s license in response to non-payment of child support.
The rules vary by state
For example, in New York, a person who has been delinquent in payments for four months will receive a notice in the mail regarding a possible license suspension.
The person then has 45 days to respond. Failure to respond means the Department of Social Services will notify the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles. Each state has slightly different rules regarding how far behind on payment one can be and how long one has to respond to the written warning.
How to lift a suspension due to child support non-payment
There are several ways one can appeal a driver’s license suspension stemming from non-payment of child support. The exact process will vary by state, and it is worth having a consultation with an attorney before deciding what to do.
Make a payment
If the delinquency is due to matters other than financial hardship, paying some or all of the money owed is the ideal solution. In such cases, one must call their local Department of Social Services and make a payment.
In many cases, one is not expected to pay all the money owed at once. Making a valid attempt to keep up with the payment may be enough for the Department of Social Services to notify the local motor vehicle office to have the license reinstated.
Explain the situation
There are often good reasons for a parent to fall behind on payments, including unemployment and health-related hardships.
By contacting the Department of Social Services and providing proof of one’s situation, it may be possible to negotiate a reinstatement of one’s license—especially if the license is needed to regain or maintain employment.
Apply for a restricted license
Perhaps the reason for non-payment is not considered acceptable by the Department of Social Services and one cannot make a lump sum payment and/or agree to a payment plan. Don’t worry, there’s still hope.
The Department of Social Services and the Department of Motor Vehicles may reinstate a license with restrictions, especially if a suspension inhibits one’s ability to maintain employment.
A restricted license will typically allow one to drive to work and (depending on the state) to the store for food and other essentials.
Why a restricted license is not always the best outcome
It is common for people to see a restricted license as an ideal compromise for those who need to drive for work and other essentials but who are having genuine trouble maintaining child support payments.
However, a restricted license often limits one’s ability to see friends or visit family, including on holidays. These limitations can have a serious impact on one’s life and emotional health.
But reinstating one’s full license may be difficult depending on the logistical and/or financial situation that resulted in non-payment in the first place.
In such cases, a consultation with an attorney could help one understand what state law allows and what else can be done to keep or reinstate a full driver’s license.