When this question is asked, I often wonder if people are more surprised by the fact that this is even a valid question or that its answer is yes. After all, state governments using driver’s license suspension to enforce debt payment is not unique in the United States. It is also not without controversy as some consider it a harsh enforcement practice with questionable effectiveness. All 50 states have statutory or administrative provisions that suspend, revoke, or restrict licenses for failure to pay child support. Not only does Delaware suspend driver’s licenses for child support arrearages, it suspends business, professional, occupational, and recreational licenses as well. In this article I will describe the process of suspension of a Delaware citizen’s driver’s license when circumstances exist related to the nonpayment of child support.

Delaware law (Del. Code tit. 13, § 2216) provides that if the licensee is 1) under an order of the Family Court to pay child support in a case enforced by the Division of Child Support Enforcement; 2) is $1,000.00 or more in arrears on child support payments; and 3) is 30 or more days delinquent in payment of the support order, his or her license may be suspended. Upon the occurrence of these three conditions, the Delaware Division of Child Support Enforcement then must give the licensee/obligor written notice of the proposed denial or suspension of a license, together with the amount of arrearages and the date of the last payment pursuant to the child support order.

Once the written notice is sent to the licensee/obligor, he or she basically has four options to prevent suspension. Denial or suspension of the license becomes effective upon final written notice to the licensee/obligor from the Division of Motor Vehicles unless, within 20 days of the date the notice of proposed denial or suspension is mailed by Division of Child Support Enforcement, the licensee-obligor does one of the following: makes a written request for an administrative hearing before the Division of Child Support Enforcement; pays the arrearages in full; surrenders to the Family Court on any outstanding bench warrant and pays any arrearages in full; or consents to a payment plan acceptable to the Division of Child Support Enforcement, and then fully complies with such payment plan.

If the license-obligor requests a hearing, the Delaware Division of Child Support Enforcement is required to convene a hearing within 30 days after receipt of the obligor’s written request, as long as it is timely requested within twenty (20) days, and then issue a decision in writing within 5 working days after the hearing. This hearing only addresses whether the conditions meriting suspension exist: whether the licensee is the obligor named in the child support order; whether the obligor owes $1,000.00 or more in arrearages; and whether the obligor is 30 or more days delinquent in payment of the child support order. No evidence of the appropriateness of the child support order or of the obligor’s ability to comply is considered at the hearing. The records of the Division of Child Support Enforcement are presumptive of the amount of child support arrearages and of the licensee/obligor’s payment history.

If the obligor fails to timely request a hearing or to otherwise timely comply with the requirements as to payment in subsection (e) of § 2216 to avoid denial or suspension of the license, upon the issuance of a written decision adverse to the obligor after a hearing, or upon order of the Family Court, the Division of Child Support Enforcement then notifies the Division of Motor Vehicles that the provisions of § 2216 for denial or suspension of the obligor’s license have been met. Such notification constitutes sufficient legal authority for the denial or suspension of any license.

The Division of Motor Vehicles from this moment in time then denies the issuance or renewal of any license, or suspends the license, and notifies the applicant or licensee in writing. The notice from the Division of Child Support Enforcement is conclusive, and the action of the Division of Motor Vehicles is effective 4 days after the date the notice of suspension is mailed to the obligor at the address on record at the Division of Motor Vehicles. The obligor shall remain ineligible for the issuance, renewal or reinstatement of any license until the obligor obtains from the Division of Child Support Enforcement written certification that the grounds for denial or suspension of a license under this section no longer exist or by order of the Family Court. The suspension remains in effect until a release is obtained from the requesting agency and received by the Division of Motor Vehicles. A reinstatement fee of $50.00 must be paid to the Division of Motor Vehicles in order to reinstate the license.

Any person who owes $1,000 or more in arrears or retroactive support and is 30 or more days delinquent in payment of a child support may have their license suspended under Delaware law. If you are behind in the payment of your obligation to pay child support and have had any type of license suspended, you need to consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Schedule a free consultation with Tabatha Castro today by calling (302) 225.5700.