Having a driver’s license means having the freedom to go whenever and wherever you want. Most people in this country rely on a personal vehicle to get to work, to attend school, to run errands and shop for groceries, and perform any of the hundreds of tasks that we do with our cars. For that reason, the state’s ability to suspend a person’s driver’s license is one of the most powerful tools for enforcing back child support payments.

If a parent falls behind on making child support payments, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has many remedies to enforce compliance with an order. These remedies can include placing a child support garnishment on a parent’s wages, reporting missed child support payments to credit bureaus, administrative seizure of assets, and driver’s license suspensions. The DSHS’ Division of Child Support (DCS) is the sub-agency assigned to carrying out these remedies.

DCS has the power to suspend a parent’s driver’s license with no prior notice. This means that a parent who is behind may one day get a letter informing him or her that all driving privileges are suspended immediately. In some instances, the parent may have up to 20 days to challenge the suspension at an administrative hearing. However, most parents will not be able to contest the suspension or lift it until all child support arrearages are paid.

In order to suspend a license, DCS will notify the state’s Department of Licensing (DOL). The DOL will then mail a suspension letter with an explanation of how to reinstate your license. Drivers with suspended licenses are required to return their physical license card to the department.

Until the time the suspension is lifted, the parent will not be allowed to drive for any reason. There is no hardship exemption that would allow a parent to drive to work or pick up the children from school. If that parent is caught driving with a suspended license, he or she will face the same consequences as any other unlicensed driver.

Once DCS notifies the DOL that the parent is in compliance with the terms of the child support order, that parent will have to re-apply for a driver’s license and pay a $75 reissue fee. At that time, the parent can resume driving with all normal privileges.

As you can see, there are numerous hassles in having and correcting a suspended driver’s license. If you are at risk of falling behind on child support payments, it is important to be proactive and figure out a way to avoid these consequences. At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys can help you create a plan to modify your child support arrangement and create a new plan that fits your family’s needs and resources. To schedule your consultation, contact our office today by calling 360-926-9112.