Garnishing Deadbeat Drivers' Licenses

A bill before the Utah legislature would revoke the driver's license of any non-custodial parent who fails to pay child support. I'm now sure how this wouldn't make the problem worse. If the State's ability to garnish wages is not effective enough, then wage garnishment laws should be strengthened.

gar·nish [gahr-nish] –verb (used with object)
3.Law. attach (as money due or property belonging to a debtor) by garnishment; garnishee.

When I was a kid, I heard my mother say to me on more than one occasion, "If you don't get your chores done, I'll ground you for a month!" I'm sure I've said that to my kids, too. But I knew my mom wasn't serious about the real problem. My kids as well knew I wasn't serious, because the crime they had committed was nothing compared to the punishment they would receive, and they knew I wouldn't/couldn't enforce it.

The Utah legislature is currently considering a bill that would revoke the driver's license of a deadbeat parent who is in arrears in child support payments. Taking away a person's license to drive in nearly all cases would curtail that person's ability to earn the money with which he or she would be able to pay child support costs. And just like my mom's penalty, the state will not be able to keep an unlicensed driver off the road. It will be much less successful in this endeavor than in garnishing wages of the same people.

The Salt Lake Tribune is in favor of the Republican-sponsored measure. Thirty-six other states use driver license revocation as a punishment for failure to pay child support. So? Does it work? I don't know, but I wouldn't think so.

Currently the Utah Office of Recovery Services has some authority to garnish the wages of deadbeat non-custodial parents. It's not working as it should, apparently, because "72,000 people now owe a total of $325 million in unpaid support". But how accurate are these statistics? The Associated Press reported:

"For every story I hear about a custodial parent not receiving funds, I hear a story from a noncustodial parent who has been abused by the system. My concern is we're going to pass this bill and think we have solved a problem," [Representative Ron] Bigelow said.

There are other methods besides garnishment: interception of tax returns and liens on property are two of the more common methods. If we can find them to stop them from driving, we can find out their sources of income.

So let's not make the problem worse. Revoking drivers' licenses will very likely do that.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Years ago I had a short career as a despised loan collector for a bank. We sometimes resorted to garnishing wages and other income after getting a judgment against a severely delinquent debtor. But garnishments rarely brought in much money.

    First off, it must be realized that doing a garnishment costs money. Second, a surprising number of deadbeats had no discernable income (they weren’t working or were being paid under the table). Third, most parties to divorce have serious financial problems. Many deadbeats are in hock to many, but have few assets that could be liquidated to cover the debts.

    Many times when we tried to run a garnishment, we were just standing in line behind others (including family services and other government agencies). The law permits only so much to be garnished because these people have to have something to live on. The upshot is that we successfully collected very little net money from garnishments. The large outstanding amount owed in child support does not surprise me in the least.

    So we’re proposing to take away these people’s drivers licenses, which will accomplish … what? If they drive for a living, they will lose their job and will have no income. That’s a plus, I’m sure. Otherwise, they will be like many DUI convicts, reckless drivers, and illegals. They will simply drive without a license.

    Yes, we have problems collecting from deadbeats. There are real reasons that it is so difficult. But I can’t understand how taking away deadbeats’ drivers licenses will improve the situation.

  3. Good point Frank. I dont know how stopping them from driving is going to do any good. Sounds like a good idea to take there transportation to and from work so we can get them to pay their child support... Oh wait, they would loose their job, thats what we need. Somebody not paying child support and unemployed. Good plan. The tax return and property lien would be the best route it would seem to me.
    I also agree with Representative Ron. We served with somebody that was a noncustodial parent claiming to be abused by the system.

  4. Wage garnishment works. So does taking away driver's licenses. It's amazing how parents can find money for their kids when their right to drive is about to be taken away.

    David Moody
    Lubbock, Texas

  5. David,

    The right to drive legally may be taken away, but as stated before, they are not going to be able to enforce it. If the person doesn't have a problem breaking the law by not paying child support, then how are they going to have a problem driving without a liscense?

  6. David,

    I agree with Danny.

    I might be scared about the prospect of losing my license for a few minutes or hours, but then after I thought about it, I'd realize if I don't drive drunk, crazy, or with excessive speed, what are the chances they will know I don't have a license?

  7. BlueBerry Pick'n1/25/2007 06:07:00 PM

    atta girl

    I love that windshield post.

    Communities are rapidly growing beyond the 'village' mentality, where our weakness of character is offset by the 'second thoughts or 'better angels as much by the sober recollection of their ex-wife's extended male relations...

    Spread Love...
    ... but wear the Glove!

    BlueBerry Pick'n
    can be found @
    "Silent Freedom is Freedom Silenced"


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