Washington

What to do About a License Suspension Notice from Division of Child Support

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Why can they suspend my license?

The Division of Child Support (DCS) may suspend your license if you are behind in your child support payments. DCS can suspend any license issued by the State of Washington, including:

  • drivers' licenses

  • hunting licenses

  • fishing licenses

  • professional licenses

  • contractor or occupational licenses

What is a Notice of Suspension?

It is the written notice DCS sends you if you are behind in child support payments. The notice says:

  • you are not in compliance with a child support obligation AND

  • DCS plans to suspend your license(s)

You are "not in compliance" with a child support obligation when you are behind six months or more in child support payments. You have either not paid child support in the last six months or more, or owe a total amount equal to or more than six months' worth of payments.

DCS cannot suspend your license for non-compliance if you:

  • are in jail or prison and has no financial resources available

  • are getting TANF, SSI or other public assistance income

  • are in WorkFirst and not getting a cash grant.

I received a Notice of Suspension. What should I do?

You must respond within twenty days of the date you got the Notice to avoid suspension of your license.

There are four different things you can do:

  1. You can ask for an administrative hearing (called a "fair hearing")

  2. You can contact DCS in writing or in person and agree on a payment schedule

  3. You can file a Petition for Modification with the Court or administrative agency where the child support order was entered and inform DCS that you have done so (if a Petition for Modification is pending at the time you receive the Notice of Suspension, you should notify DCS of this and provide a copy of the Petition)

  4. You can ask for a DCS Conference Board review

We discuss these responses in more detail below.

*If you do not respond within twenty days of receiving the Notice of Suspension, they will suspend your license!   Try to talk to a lawyer about which option you should use.

1. Request an Administrative Hearing

Ask for an administrative hearing in writing by sending a letter to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) at P.O. Box 42488, Olympia, WA 98504.

An "administrative law judge" (or "ALJ") will run the hearing. A DCS representative will be there. You may present evidence and question the DCS representative at the hearing.

You may only bring up five issues to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to stop the license suspension:

  • you are not the parent who owes child support

  • there is no valid child support order

  • you have paid the support as required by the order

  • you are not six months behind in making payments

  • you have made a "good faith effort" to comply with the support order

The ALJ can decide whether you have made a "good faith effort" to comply based on your payment history, ability to pay, and efforts to find and keep a job.

After the hearing, the ALJ will make a written decision. The ALJ will order your license suspended if s/he decides that:

  • you are not in compliance AND

  • you have not made a good faith effort to comply

If the ALJ decides you are not in compliance but you made a good faith effort to comply, s/he can set up a payment plan for you. The ALJ must take into consideration the following in setting up the payment plan:

  • the amount you owe

  • the amount of the current support order

  • your earnings

  • the needs of all the children who rely on you financially

If you plan to ask the ALJ at your hearing to set up a payment plan for you, you must bring with you to the hearing information about the things listed above.

2. Contact DCS to Make Payment Arrangements

If you contact DCS in writing within twenty days of the day you receive the notice, they will postpone your license suspension for up to thirty days. This gives you a chance to make an agreement with DCS on a payment schedule.

The payment agreement must include timely payments of current support plus a reasonable payment schedule for paying off back support. DCS must consider your financial circumstances and the needs of all the children you support. If you believe that the DCS representative is not being reasonable, ask to speak with a supervisor. If this does not work, you may ask for a Conference Board review. (See below.)

If you sign an agreement with DCS, then they will not suspend your license. If you do not reach an agreement, DCS will suspend your license.

3. Modify the Support Order

You may be able to lower (modify) the amount of court-ordered child support you pay each month. The court or an ALJ may lower child support if things have changed for you since court entered the child support order. Examples:  you are now disabled or had an involuntary decrease in income.

You can also get the amount lowered if the court entered the last order by default. This means you did not make an appearance (file any written response or appear in court to present your position) when the court set child support. Generally, only you may only get future child support changed. You may only get back child support changed in a very  few cases. You may need a lawyer for that.

If your support is based on a court order, you must ask that same court to modify it. You file a "petition for modification of child support."  DCS has a do-it-yourself packet that includes all the court forms you need at http://www.dshs.wa.gov/dcs/. You can also get this packet by calling legal services. You may also be able to get a lawyer to help you.

If DCS set your support, a new ALJ hearing may change it. DCS has forms for requesting a modification hearing with an ALJ. If you do not know whether a court or DCS set your support order, ask DCS to send you a copy of the order.

DCS has a duty to help you modify your child support if your circumstances justify a change. Contact the DCS support enforcement officer handling your case.

4. Ask for a Conference Board Review

A Conference Board review is an informal hearing to resolve grievances with DCS.   You can address some matters with a Conference Board can address that you cannot get decisions from anywhere else, such as a grievance about a DCS worker, request for deferrals, review of payroll deductions that cause hardship, or a request for a charge-off or waiver (a decision not to collect).  Conference Board decisions are made in writing. You cannot appeal them to a court.

A Conference Board may agree to "charge-off" (not collect) child support arrears you owe DSHS if collection would cause you "substantial hardship."  The Conference Board may decide to accept a partial lump-sum payment in place of collecting all of the unpaid support. They may write off the entire DSHS debt if collection would cause substantial hardship to children living with you.

Examples of what might be "substantial hardship" include:

  • you and the child for whom you owe support are re-united

  • you are disabled and get disability payments

  • payment of arrears interferes with your ability to pay current child support

  • you have limited earning potential

My license is already suspended. What can I do to get it back?

If you owe child support, you must sign a repayment agreement with DCS (or pay off the entire debt) to get your license back. Call DCS to ask about signing a repayment agreement.

In setting a repayment amount, DCS will look at your income and expenses, including expenses of caring for any dependent children. You must provide DCS with complete information about your financial situation, including any extra expenses you may have. Examples:

  • medical costs
  • costs of caring for a child who is disabled

DCS may make you pay the first installment due under your repayment agreement before releasing your license. You must keep making your payments when due under the repayment agreement. If you do not timely payments, they can suspend your license again.

What if I need legal help?

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, centralized intake, advice and referral service for low-income people seeking free legal assistance with civil legal problems. 

  • Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:10 a.m. until 12:25 p.m. CLEAR works with a language line to provide callers free interpreters as needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-888-201-1014 using your preferred TTY or Video relay service.

  • King County: Call 211 for information and referral to an appropriate legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. You may also call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number, 1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide callers free interpreters as needed. Deaf and hearing-impaired callers can call 1-800-833-6384 or 711 to get a free relay operator. They will then connect you with 211. You can also get information on legal service providers in King County through 211's website at www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

  • Persons 60 and Over: Persons 60 or over may call CLEAR*Sr at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of income.

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This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of March 2014.

© 2014 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014
(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)