Individuals who don’t meet their child support obligations may find themselves in circumstances of panic or anxiety when they receive notice that it could cost them their ability to lawfully drive in New York.
Under VTL 510, a driver’s license or permit may be suspended if he/she falls behind on court-ordered child support payments (or combined child and spousal support payments). A person who receives public assistance or social security income (SSI) cannot have his/her license suspended under this law. The same is true if one’s income isn't enough to support oneself.
Penalties and Fines
In New York, a noncustodial parent who falls behind on child support payments for 4 months will receive a notice in the mail regarding a possible license suspension. The person then has 45 days to respond. A person can respond by making a payment or explaining why payments have not been made (see below). Failure to respond after 45 days can result in a suspension.
The law states:
Suspension and disqualification for failure to make child support payments or failure to comply with a summons, subpoena or warrant relating to a paternity or child support proceeding. (1) The commissioner, on behalf of the department, shall enter into a written agreement with the commissioner of the office of temporary and disability assistance, on behalf of the office of temporary and disability assistance, which shall set forth the procedures for suspending the driving privileges of individuals who have failed to make payments of child support or combined child and spousal support…”
Such penalties include:
- A person who has fallen behind on child support payments can suffer myriad consequences beyond just losing his driver’s license.
- Taking away the business or professional licenses.
- Suspending recreational licenses, such as hunting and fishing.
- Sentencing to up to 6 months in jail.
- Placing a lien on property.
- Reporting the unpaid debt to credit agencies.
A person can also be forced to pay additional costs, such as the payee’s attorney fees and interest. This is in addition to a $70 suspension termination fee that will have to be paid to the DMV to lift the suspension once the payments are up to date.
How to Beat a License Suspension for Unpaid Child Support
A driver’s license suspension resulting from non-payment of child support can be appealed or lifted in several ways. One way is to make a payment. It is not always required to pay all the money owed at once. A valid attempt to keep up with the payment may be enough for the NY Social Services Department to tell the DMV that the license may be reinstated.
However, if a person’s income is no longer sufficient to cover the payments, this may be a valid explanation for missed payments. This can happen if someone is laid off, goes on disability, or has been suffering from costly health-related hardships. Proof of such claims will be required for the suspension to be lifted.
In some cases, the best approach may be to request a restricted license. A restricted license will typically allow a person to drive to work or school and back. This is far more restrictive than it might sound. Imagine not being able to go out to the movies, or for dinner with friends, on a road trip, or even to run to the drug store a few minutes away to pick up some milk.
How Unpaid Child Support Affects Out-of-State Drivers
It does not matter if the driver lives in New York and the child/payee lives in another state or vice versa. A license suspension in one state will be honored in all 50 states. The license is still usable as a valid form of photo ID, but a person cannot drive without violating the law.
Penalties for driving on a suspended license can be steep both in New York and in other states and can include jail time, heavy fines, and even a criminal record. Rather than take the risk, it is highly advised that a person attempt to lift the suspension before getting behind the wheel.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is there a statute of limitations on child support in NY?
New York State allows parents to collect unpaid child support for 20 years from the date of default.
- How much back child support is a felony in NY?
A person who is convicted of willfully failing to pay child support in NY for the second time in five years can be charged with a felony offense. Otherwise, the person can be charged with a misdemeanor.
- What if my child support payments are too much?
A person who owes child support can file a petition to have the payment amount decreased. The petitioner must show that there has been a substantial change in his financial situation.
- What happens if I violate the terms of my restricted license?
Violating a restricted license can result in the license getting revoked. The DMV will not allow a person to apply for another restricted license for 5 years.
Who Should I Contact?
If you or someone you love has had a driver’s license suspended for not paying child support, or has received a notice that a suspension is imminent, it is highly recommended that you contact the NY Social Services Department to discuss a payment plan. Once an arrangement has been worked out, request written confirmation of the arrangement to bring or send to the DMV as proof. Keep in mind that if the license has already been suspended, the suspension termination fee will still have to be paid before one can drive again.