Iowa

Not Paying for Child Support Can Mean Loss of Driver's License

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded
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If you fail to pay child support, will that affect your driver's license? The short answer is: it might. The law says if people fall far enough behind in paying child support, the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) can "sanction" drivers' licenses. This means they can suspend, revoke, not issue, or not renew the license if a parent is delinquent in child support payments.

To be "delinquent" means the parent cannot be making payments through wage withholding and they must be three months behind in payments.

How will I know if they might sanction my license?

The process starts when CSRU serves an "Official Notice of Potential License Sanction." This is done by the sheriff or through certified mail. After the notice is served, the parent has 20 days to ask for a conference in writing. If the parent meets this 20-day deadline, the sanction process will be "stayed." That means it will stop until at least after the conference. Notice of the conference should go to the parent ten days prior to when it will take place.

What will happen at the conference?

CSRU will take a look at their decision to sanction the license to see if it was correct. To decide, CSRU checks for mistakes in how much support is due or to make sure they have the right parent. CSRU may also ask the parent to enter into a payment agreement. CSRU will decide if certain facts exist which mean a licensesanction is not appropriate. If there were no mistakes and there is no reason not to proceed, CSRU will go to the next step. They will issue a "Certificate of Noncompliance" to the Department of Transportation (DOT).

What is a Certificate of Noncompliance?

This is a form CSRU creates. The form tells the DOT to sanction a parent's license. It is sent to the DOT if any of the things below take place:

1. The parent falls three months behind in their support payments and does not respond to the Notice of Potential License Sanction within 20 days.

2. The parent fails to provide facts needed to figure a payment agreement.

3. The parent fails to comply with the payment agreement; or

4. The parent asks for a conference but fails to appear.

What is a "payment agreement"?

This is an agreement to make child support payments to avoid the license sanction. The agreement should take into account how much the parent is able to pay. As a result, the amount of the payments may not be the same as those the original child support order required. First, CSRU will ask the parent for proof of current income (pay stubs, tax records, etc.). Then CSRU applies the child support guidelines to this income amount to find the right amount of support. If this is less than what the parent is ordered to pay, the Payment Agreement will be based on this lower amount.

If a Payment Agreement is entered, CSRU will withdraw the Certificate of Noncompliance. However, if a parent does not keep the Payment Agreement, CSRU can send the Certification of Noncompliance to the DOT. Then the parent's license will be sanctioned. The Payment Agreement must last for at least a year unless certain other conditions are met.

Will a Payment Agreement change or modify a child support order?

No. However, CSRU must give the forms to the parent so they can ask for review and adjustment of the order. This may eventually mean the order will change. The payment agreement stays in effect during the review period.What will the DOT do when they get a Certificate of Noncompliance?

In general, the DOT will follow their normal process and rules to suspend or revoke a license. First DOT will send their own notice to the parent. The notice will explain the intent to sanction the license. The sanction will go into effect no sooner than 30 days from the date of this notice, unless CSRU notifies the DOT of a change. The notice will also tell the parent they must contact CSRU to schedule a conference if they want to keep their license. The notice will tell the parent they can ask for a court hearing. The DOT cannot stop the sanction and you cannot appeal through the DOT. It is necessary to contact CSRU.

Can the license sanction be challenged in court?

Yes. A written application for a court hearing can be filed with the court. A copy of the application must also be sent to CSRU. The deadline for filing the application is 30 days from the day the DOT sends their notice to the parent. Of course, it can be requested sooner. For example, if a parent does not sign the Payment Agreement at the conference, they should ask for a hearing. It may be possible to argue that the Agreement is not reasonable.

What will happen if a hearing is requested?

First, requesting a hearing will automatically "stay" or stop the sanction process until the hearing takes place. A hearing will be held within 30 days. If the court finds that CSRU made a mistake, the license sanction will be withdrawn. If the court does not find any mistakes, the "stay" will be lifted and the process will continue.

Are there any exceptions to the license sanction rules?

Yes. Certain conditions are considered valid reasons for exemption or removal from the license sanction process. These include:

1. Receipt of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income or Family Investment Program funds;

2. Temporary illness or disability of the person or another household member which requires the person to stay in the home as caretaker. A doctor must complete a statement to verify the inability to work.

3. Being in jail.

4. Taking part in a job training or job seekingprogram through the Department of Employment Services as a result of getting food stamps.

5. Taking part in a chemical dependency treatment program when the staff of the program says in writing that taking part in the program means the parent is not able to also go to work.

6. Involvement in a contempt action dealing with support issues.

Are there any ways to stop the license sanction?

Yes, but they are limited. It is important to act within certain time frames. One way is to enter into a Payment Agreement. You need to ask for and go to a conference and provide income information to CSRU (discussed above). A similar method is to comply with a Payment Agreement that is already in place. Another way is to pay the total support owed, both current and past due. The third way is to request and attend a court hearing. If the court is convinced that CSRU made a mistake, the sanction will be lifted. The fourth way is to provide proof that one of the above exceptions applies. If any of these apply, CSRU must issue a Withdrawal of Certificate of Noncompliance.

If my license has already been sanctioned, is there anything I can do?

Yes. You can always ask for a conference. If a Payment Agreement is made at that conference, CSRU will withdraw the sanction.

What will the DOT do if they get a withdrawal of a Certificate of Noncompliance?

The law states that the DOT must immediately reinstate, renew or issue a license if the parent complies with everything else the DOT says he or she must do.

How long will the license sanction last?

The license sanction will remain until the parent pays all support owed, both arrears and current, or enters into a Payment Agreement; or meets one of the above criteria for exemption.

The goal of CSRU in trying to sanction a driver's license is to convince a parent to start making regular child support payments. If a parent is not exempt from the process and does not enter into a Payment Agreement, however, their driver's license will be sanctioned. Losing a driver's license can cause other problems with the law, too. For example, operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license is a simple misdemeanor. Besides the penalties for a simple misdemeanor, the punishment imposed must include an "assessment of a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $1,500."

The bottom line is that anyone who gets a Notice of Potential License Sanction should respond right away.PLEASE NOTE: The law lets CSRU sanction other licenses, too. This includes licenses to engage in a profession, occupation, business, or industry as well as hunting, fishing, or boating. This article applies to those types of licenses as well. Instead of the DOT, the agency that issues the license would be involved. The other agencies are called "licensing authorities."

Summary of What to Do If You Get a Notice of Potential License Sanction or a Certificate of Noncomplians from Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU)

Talk to a lawyer about what to expect and what your options are. If you cannot afford a lawyers, call Legal Services Corporation of Iowa to find out if you can get free legal help. Then you should:

1. Contact CSRU and ask for a conference. You can go to the local CSRU field office covering your case or write them. The address should be on the Notice or Certificate you get. You can also call the Customer Service Unit in Des Moines at 1-888-229-9223. However, your request for a conference must be in writing.

2. Go to the conference. Be sure and take information about your income situation with you. For example, if you are on SSI, take a letter or Award Notice from the Social Security Administration with you. Another example: take your tax records which show your income for the last year or other earnings statements from your employer. CSRU will use this income information to decide if you need a payment agreement and what the terms should be.

If you have questions about the amount they want you to pay under the agreement or about the conference, get legal advice. Contact Iowa Legal Aid if you can't afford a lawyer to ask about free legal help.