Licence Suspension and Denial: Overview of a New Mechanism for Child Support Enforcement


In the 1990s, a variety of new enforcement tools were developed in the United States and Canada to improve the collection of child support, among them the denial, suspension, restriction and revocation of drivers' and occupational[3] licences. The targets of licence restriction programs are support payors who have the means to pay their child support obligations, but who are unwilling to do so--the 'won't pay' group, as Myers (1999) has termed them. In the United States, state legislation authorizes the suspension of state issued licences of child support payors who are late in making payments. In Canada,[4] drivers' licences have recently become subject to denial, restriction or suspension for non-payment of child support; eight of the 13 jurisdictions have implemented such programs. Others are considering the use of licence suspensions or restrictions in their enforcement strategies.

The Canadian government has also implemented a similar enforcement mechanism focusing on federal transport licences and passports. In 1997, the Canadian government enacted legislation that permits the suspension, denial and revocation of passports and certain federal transport licences, such as aviation and marine licences.

This report first examines the United States experience in restricting drivers' and occupational licences, to assist policy makers in determining the feasibility of using similar mechanisms in this country. The report then describes the main operational features of drivers' licence suspension and restriction programs in Canada, followed by a brief discussion of passport revocation.

After briefly describing in section 2 the methods used to obtain information, this report is organized as follows. Section 3 describes the licence suspension process in the United States, under the headings of the state legislative authority: the types of occupational licences subject to restriction; the threshold at which suspension proceedings are initiated for non-payment of child support; the variety of processes for licence restriction, including due process protections; temporary licences; the matching of payors to licence holders; reinstatement; monitoring and evaluation; communications activities; and the benefits and drawbacks of licence restriction programs. Section 4 reports on the licence restriction activity in Canada, and Section 5 provides a summary of the main points.

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