July 22 , 2003
Tim Connolly
(617) 626-2369

Parents who had been neglecting to help raise their children have made more than $11 million in child support payments in the last 18 months after the state threatened to revoke their driver's and professional licenses, the Department of Revenue announced today.

The Department, which oversees child support enforcement, teamed with the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Division of Professional Licensure to make the program work. More than 20,000 warnings were mailed and 6,311 parents started paying.

"This has been an incredibly successful program," said Revenue Commissioner Alan LeBovidge. "We are not interested in taking away someone's driving privilege or the license they need to work, we only want children to receive the support they need."

Under the program, parents who have not made a court-ordered child support payment in 12 weeks are sent letters saying their licenses will be suspended unless they pay what they owe. During a 30-day grace period, parents must work with the Department of Revenue to comply with their court-ordered obligations. Parents who fail to do so will receive a final notice that their licenses will be revoked.

In one case, a custodial parent who had been struggling to get by, received a check for $22,230 in back payments just before Christmas last year. The father wrote the check after he was warned that his license would be taken.

Parents who fail to comply lose the ability to legally drive a motor vehicle in Massachusetts or any other state and/or work in their chosen profession. In the first 18 months of the program, 5,559 driver's licenses were suspended and 409 professional licenses were revoked.

"This is our Denver Boot for the self-employed," said LeBovidge, referring to a device that some cities use to render vehicles undrivable if the owner has not paid outstanding parking tickets. "Most non-custodial parents have their child support payments deducted from their pay checks. Some self-employed parents pay regularly, but for those who don't, the license revocation program works like a Denver Boot."

The Department of Revenue, which is granted broad power in Massachusetts to enforce child support court orders, collected $443 million on behalf of about 85,000 families in fiscal 2003. Besides license suspension, the Department regularly produces a WANTED poster with pictures of 10 deadbeat parents who are wanted on criminal warrants. The posters have led to 85 arrests and nearly $3 million in support payments.