License Revocation, Suspension and Nonissuance
Is This an Underused Tool for
Child Support Enforcement?
By Michelle C. Harrington
In cases involving child support, do you routinely include an interrogatory that asks what state-issued permits and licenses the payor has or has applied for? If not, you may be missing an opportunity to protect your client’s interests.
Since 1995, a tool has been available for enforcing child support orders that goes beyond the routinely used indirect contempt of court action. Title 43 O.S. Section 139.1 sets forth a process for seeking the revocation, suspension or nonissuance of licenses issued by the state. Many readers may immediately think about the state-issued license that allows them to work in certain professions. Yes, that could be revoked or suspended if an obligor ignores her obligation to pay child support or provide medical insurance for the minor child.
“Fine,” a cynical obligor might say. “I’ll just go fishing instead of working — that will teach the complainer a lesson!” But the obligee gets the last laugh, because recreational licenses are covered too!
WHEN IS THIS REMEDY AVAILABLE?
- The ability to seek a revocation or other options pertaining to licenses goes into effect when one is in noncompliance with an order for support, meaning:
- The obligor has failed to make child support payments required by a child support order in an amount equal to the child support payable for at least 90 days.
- The obligor failed to make full payments pursuant to a court-ordered payment plan for at least 90 days.
- The obligor has failed to obtain or maintain health insurance coverage as required by an order for support for at least 90 days.
- An individual, after receiving appropriate notice to comply with subpoenas or orders relating to paternity or child support proceeding has failed to comply.
- An individual failed to comply with an order to submit to genetic testing to determine paternity.1
WHAT IS A ‘LICENSE’ FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS STATUTE?
“License” is a catchall term to encompass documents resulting from any state-issued right or privilege. It extends to certificates, registrations, permits, approval or similar documents issued by a licensing board. It includes licenses to engage in a profession, occupation, or business. While many immediately think of practicing law or medicine in this purview, there is a plethora of professions that require licenses and permits — such as teachers, tattoo artists, taxi drivers, bingo operators, boat dealers and brewers. From abstractors to youth camps, there is an Oklahoma license available for almost every letter of the alphabet.2
In addition to business-related licenses, recreational licenses and permits are fair game. Hunting and fishing licenses or other authorization issued pursuant to the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Code are subject to revocation and the other options for relief.
“License” can also refer to certificates of title for vessels, motors, and other licenses or registrations issued pursuant to the Oklahoma Vessel and Motor Registration Act. This category includes a driver license or permit.3
WHAT RELIEF IS AVAILABLE?
If, during any hearing involving the support of a child, the district court finds that 1) the obligor has a license as defined by this statute and 2) there is evidence that the obligor is in noncompliance with an order for support, the court shall suspend or revoke the license or place the obligor on probation.4
In order to be placed on probation, an obligor is required to agree to a payment plan that includes 1) making all future child support payments as required by the current order and 2) paying the arrearage in a lump sum by a certain date if the court determines the obligor has the ability to do so, or making specified monthly payments in addition to the current payments. The additional payments continue until the total arrearage and the interest thereon are fully paid.5 If the obligor is placed on probation, he or she may continue to practice his or her business or profession, or operate a motor vehicle. There is no notice given to any licensing board as a result of probation. If the obligor fails to comply with all terms of the payment plan by the ordered date of completion, the licenses of the obligor shall be automatically revoked or suspended without further hearing.6
At any time during a probationary period, the obligee or Oklahoma Child Support Services (OCSS) may request a hearing to review the status of the obligor’s compliance with the payment plan and to request immediate suspension or revocation of the obligor’s license. Notice of the hearing must be served on the obligor but it may be served by regular mail to the obligor’s address of record.7
The Department of Human Services also has the authority to revoke or suspend a driver’s license if, as a result of a child support hearing, it determines an obligor is in noncompliance.8
All the relief set forth above may be used in addition to any other child support enforcement remedies. If the non-compliant obligor is an attorney, he or she would also be subject to disciplinary proceedings pursuant to the rules of professional conduct.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE
The licensing board does not have discretion once it receives an order for suspension, revocation, or noninssuance of an obligor’s license. The licensing board has no jurisdiction to modify remand, reverse, vacate or stay the order.9
The obligor is not entitled to a refund of any funds already paid to the board for costs related to issuance, renewal, or maintenance of a license. In addition, the board may charge the obligor a fee to cover administrative costs incurred by administering the order. It is noteworthy that the board is exempt from liability to the obligor for activities conducted in compliance with Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1.10
WHAT RIGHTS DOES THE
Once the obligor has paid in full pursuant to the payment plan and complied with all other terms of the order of support, either he or OCSS may file a motion with the court to reinstate the license or terminate the probation. The matter gets set for a hearing and the court shall grant the requested relief if it determines the obligor has fully complied.11
The obligor may seek reinstatement of his or her license prior to full compliance with the plan. He or she must set the matter for hearing and notice the obligee and OCSS. The court has the discretion to reinstate the license if the obligor can prove the following applicable substantial compliance: 1) paid the support for the current month as well as the two months immediately proceeding, or paid the equivalent of that amount; 2) disclosed all information regarding health insurance availability, obtained and maintained coverage required by the support order; 3) complied with all subpoenas relating to paternity proceedings; 4) complied with all orders to submit to genetic testing for paternity determination; and 5) disclosed employment and address information.12
If the court grants the obligor’s requested relief for reinstatement prior to full compliance, the obligor shall be placed on probation conditioned on compliance with both the payment plan and the support order. If the obligor fails to comply with the terms of probation, the court may refuse to reinstate the license and driving privileges unless the obligor pays an amount determined by the court to ensure future compliance. This is in addition to the requirement for the obligor to comply with all other terms set forth by the court.13
A final order may be appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.14
If you represent a client that may be entitled to child support, you may be remiss by not determining early in the case whether the obligor has any licenses issued by the state of Oklahoma. A good way to obtain that information is with an interrogatory about licenses and a document production request for copies of those licenses.15 The very real possibility of not being able to work, drive or — worst of all — not being able to fish, may be just the motivation a non-compliant obligor needs to get caught up on child support obligations!
1. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(A)(2).
2. Author could not find licenses or permits that began with K, Q, X, or Z.
3. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(A)(4).
4. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(C)(1).
5. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(C)(2).
6. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(C)(6).
7. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(C)(5).
8. Title 47 O.S. 6-201.1.
9. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(L).
10. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(P).
11. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(D).
12. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(E)(2).
13. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(E)(4).
14. Title 43 O.S. Sect. 139.1(R).
15. Sample interrogatory: State each and every license, permit, certificate and registration issued to you by the state (including, but not limited to professions, driving, recreation, etc) and for each state the issuance number and the state entity that has issued it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle C. Harrington is a solo practitioner whose practice is restricted to family law and guardian ad litem representation. She received her J.D. from OU in 1992. Ms. Harrington has been an adjunct professor at OCU School of Law since 1999 teaching family law and related courses. She is the author of Oklahoma Family Law Direct and Cross Examination.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal -- Aug. 11, 2012 -- Vol.83, No. 20