The Orange County Department of Child Support Services (the Department) is responsible for enforcing child support for approximately 160,000 children residing in Orange County . Because of the critical nature of its services to the health and welfare of the children, the State Legislature has provided statutory tools to aid in the collection of child support. One of the most successful enforcement tools is the statute which allows the Department to cause the suspension of delinquent obligor parents' California Drivers License and other professional licenses. Family Code §17520.

Suspension Authority

Family Code §17520 requires the Department to submit to the California Department of Child Support Services, on a monthly basis, a "certified list" in which it verifies under penalty of perjury the names of child support obligors who are out of compliance with a judgment or order for support. The California Department of Child Support Services within 30 calendar days of receipt of the list provides a copy of the list to each board that is responsible for regulating licenses including the Department of Motor Vehicle. Each of these administrative agencies has the authority to withhold issuance or renewal of the license of any applicant on the list.

Upon receipt of the certified list of delinquent obligors, each board immediately sends notice to obligor of the board's intent to withhold issuance or renewal of the license. This notice is sent by mail to the last known address on file with the board. The board issues a temporary license valid for a period of 150 days to any applicant whose name is on the list if the applicant is otherwise eligible for a license. This temporary license may at the request of the local child support agency be extended for a period not to exceed 150 additional days. If the obligor parent is more then 4 months delinquent and their license is not coming up for renewal within 6 months and the license is not the type which is renewed annually, their license can be suspended. Notice is sent to the obligor by the board informing them that their license will be suspended in 150 days.

Reinstatement Process

In order for the obligor parent's license to be released, the parent must be in compliance with the judgment or order for support. The obligor may seek review of the submission of their name to the certified list. 17520(h); or the obligor can request to negotiate a repayment plan with the local child support agency. §17520(g) These requests can be submitted in writing or in person at the local child support agencies office. The local child support agency shall request the board release the license unconditionally if the obligor is found in compliance with the order or conditionally release the license if a negotiated repayment agreement is reached establishing new terms of compliance. The obligor can file a motion for judicial review of the local child support agency's decision not to release, in the Superior Court. At the hearing the court's review is limited to the existence of a support obligation owed by the applicant, compliance with the order, additional facts which warrant conditional release.

Family Code § 17520(k) At the hearing the court can uphold the local child support agency's decision not to release the license, grant an unconditional release or grant a conditional release. If a conditional release is granted, the court must base its findings on facts concerning needs of obligor; payment history; current circumstances of obligor and obligee; and payments necessary to satisfy the release. If subsequent to the issuance of a conditional release the applicant falls out of compliance the local child support agency may notify the board and upon receipt of the notice the board shall immediately notify the obligor that their license will be suspended on a specific date not to exceed 30 days from the notice. Additionally a suspension or revocation of a driver's license under this section shall not subject the obligor's car to impoundment. Family Code § 17520(w)(1).

Orange County Department of Child Support Services' Policy on Releasing Licenses

Because the Department realizes that the ability to drive is critical to achieving gainful employment in the Southern California and because gainful employment is critical to an obligor's ability to pay his child support obligation; the Department has adopted a posture of negotiation aimed at setting the obligor parent up for success, not failure. The practical application of this policy directs staff to issue a license release to the DMV or other licensing board if:

  1. The Obligor can prove that he/she has a job offer that requires a license; or
  2. The Obligor signs an agreement to remain current with their child support, pays the current month's obligation, a nominal amount towards the delinquency and agrees to pay a fair amount monthly towards the arrearages. Application of this practice has all but eliminated the need for obligors to seek review by the Family Court as sustainable agreements are usually reached and the Department takes an active role in initiating motions to modify the support when appropriate. It is important to note that once a settlement is negotiated the request for license release is submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles by mail and it takes approximately 2-3 weeks to process the release. Once the release is issued and mailed to the obligor, it is the obligor's responsibility to take the release to his local Department of Motor Vehicles Office, pay a fee and receive his license.