Child Support and License Suspension

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If you fall behind in your child support payments, you might lose your drivers or other license. Read this to learn how to keep this from happening and what you can do if your license does get suspended. #3809EN

Please Note:

  • Read this only if you owe child support in Washington State.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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

  • Drivers' licenses
  • Hunting and fishing licenses, including commercial fishing licenses
  • Business licenses
  • Professional licenses
  • Contractor or occupational licenses
* If you are worried about falling behind in support, DCS can help. Read about the Alternative Solutions program or contact

DCS sends this notice to you if you are behind in child support. It says:

  • You are behind in support.
  • DCS plans to suspend your license(s).

You can get this notice when any of these is true:

  • You have not paid support in at least the last 6 months.
  • You owe at least 6 months' worth of payments.
  • There is a court order saying you will lose your license, or not get it renewed, if you get behind in child support. You fall behind.

DCS cannot suspend your license if you  

  • Are in jail or prison, and you have no money or resources.
  • Are getting TANF, SSI, or other public assistance.
  • Are in WorkFirst and do not get a cash grant.

You must respond within 20 days of getting the Notice to avoid suspension of your license. If you do not respond within 20 days of getting the Notice of Suspension, DCS will suspend your license. Try to talk to a lawyer.

You can do any of these:

  • Pay what you owe.
  • Ask for an administrative hearing (also called a "fair hearing").
  • Write or go to DCS to ask about a payment schedule.
  • File a Petition to Modify Child Support with the Court or agency that entered the child support order to ask to have to pay less child support and tell DCS you have done this. "Modify" means to change. (If someone already filed this type of Petition before you got the Notice of Suspension, you should tell DCS this and give them a copy of the Petition.)
  • Ask for a DCS Conference Board review.

Keep reading for more about these options.

Send a letter to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) at P.O. Box 42488, Olympia, WA 98504.

* Read Representing yourself at an administrative hearing for tips on how to prepare for your hearing.
* If you have a disability, read How to Ask for a Reasonable Accommodation of Your Disability from the Office of Administrative Hearings to decide if OAH should make a change in the way it handles a hearing or communicates with you.

An administrative law judge (ALJ) runs the hearing. Someone from DCS will also be there. You can give evidence and ask the DCS representative questions.

These are the only defenses to the license suspension you can make to the ALJ:

  • You are not the parent who owes child support.
  • There is no valid child support order.
  • You have paid the support as ordered.
  • You are not 6 months behind.
  • You really tried (you made a "good faith effort") to follow the support order.

To decide if you have made a "good faith effort" to follow the order, the ALJ can look at what you have paid so far (your "payment history"), what you can pay, and whether and how hard you have tried to find and keep a job.

After the hearing, the ALJ makes a written decision.

The ALJ will order your license suspended if the ALJ finds both these are true:

  • You are not in compliance. (You have not been doing what you were supposed to.)
  • You have not made a good faith effort to comply.

An ALJ who decides you are not in compliance but made a good faith effort can set up a payment plan. The ALJ must think about:

  • How much you owe
  • The current support amount
  • How much you make
  • The needs of all the children you support

If you plan to ask the ALJ for a payment plan, you must bring info about these things to the hearing.

Contact DCS in writing within 20 days of getting the Notice.

DCS will then delay your license suspension for up to 30 days. This gives you a chance to work out a payment schedule with them.

Any agreement must include timely payments of current support and a reasonable payment schedule for paying off back support. DCS must consider:

  • Your financial situation
  • The needs of all the children you support

If you believe the DCS representative is being unreasonable, ask to talk to a supervisor. If this does not work, you can ask for a Conference Board review. (See below.)

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

The court or an ALJ can lower child support if things have changed since they entered the child support order. For example, you might want to ask for a modification if you now have a disability, or you lost income for reasons beyond your control.

You can also get the support lowered if the court entered the last order by default. "By default" means you did not file a written response or appear in court when the court set support.

Generally, you can only get future support changed. You may only get back support changed in a very few cases with a lawyer's help.

You must ask that same court to change it. You do this by filing a Petition to Modify Child Support Order. Our File a petition to modify a child support order packet has the forms and instructions you need. You can also get this packet by calling legal services. You may be able to get a lawyer to help you.

A new ALJ hearing may change it. DCS has forms to ask for a modification hearing with an ALJ.

If you do not know if a court or DCS set your support order, ask DCS to send you a copy of the order.

DCS should help you change your child support if your situation means you need a change. Contact the DCS officer handling your case. Read Ask DCS to help change your child support order to learn more.

It is an informal hearing to resolve problems with DCS. It can address things you cannot get decisions about anywhere else, such as:

  • Resolving a complaint about a DCS worker
  • Delaying (deferring) payment
  • Reviewing payroll deductions that make it hard for you to pay support
  • Charging-off or waiving (excusing) what you owe

Conference Board decisions are in writing. You cannot appeal them to a court.

You can read DSHS' FAQ Child Support Conference Boards to learn more. 

A Conference Board may agree to charge-off (forgive) support you owe DSHS if collection would cause you "substantial hardship." They may decide to accept partial payment instead of collecting all you owe. They may write off the entire DSHS debt if collection would cause real hardship to children living with you.

Here are some possible examples of substantial hardship:

  • You and the child you owe support for are reunited and you are providing the child support in your home.
  • You get disability payments that only cover your day-to-day living expenses.
  • Paying back support would make it hard for you to pay current support.
  • You have limited ability to make a living.

You can sign a repayment agreement with DCS or pay off the entire debt. Call DCS to ask about this.

DCS looks at your income and expenses to set a repayment amount. These can include expenses of caring for dependent children.

You must give DCS complete info about your financial situation. This includes any extra expenses you have. These extra expenses might, for example, be medical costs or the costs of caring for a child with a disability.

You may have to make a first payment under your agreement before DCS will release your license. You must keep making payments when due. If you do not, they can re-suspend your license.

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Oct 18, 2022
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