Nearly 10,000 people whose driver's licenses are suspended for failing to pay child support will get their licenses back if they reach agreement to resume payments under a new program this month.
The program applies to people whose cases are enforced through the state Office of Child Support Enforcement.
The office is calling the program "Back in the Driver's Seat," the state Department of Finance and Administration announced this week.
The program will allow those with suspended licenses to work with their local child support office to reach an agreement to resume their payments, the department said in its news release. If they reach an agreement, the Office of Child Support Enforcement will release any related holds on the individual's driver's license.
Information was unavailable Friday about how much in child support is owed by the 9,671 people with suspended driver's licenses, said finance department spokesman Scott Hardin. There are about 93,000 actively enforced child support cases through the office, and 77,000 of those cases involve non-custodial parents, including the group of 9,671, he said.
"Through our 'Back in the Driver's Seat' program, we are providing an opportunity for those behind on payments to get back on track, benefiting both the child and the parent," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in the finance department's news release.
The Office of Child Support Enforcement's 26 offices across the state will conduct "Back in the Driver's Seat" events on certain days this month. Staff will work with parents, no matter whether they are slightly behind on payments or have not paid for a significant period, according to the department. Each case presents unique factors, so there is not a certain amount or percentage of funds owed that must be paid in order to reach an agreement. That will be determined on a case-by-case basis, the department said.
Asked if the department has a goal regarding how much it expects to collect through the program, Hardin said, "Our hope is not to reach a certain amount, but to engage as many of these parents as possible, hopefully resulting in ongoing payments."
Several states have offered similar programs in the past, but they've been focused on removal of warrants, he said.
States such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Maryland and New Mexico have offered amnesty for those with warrants over unpaid child support, Hardin said.
"With a driver's license suspended, the parent may have issues pursuing new employment while also likely limiting the time spent with a child due to lack of transportation," he said. "Through 'Back in the Driver's Seat,' the parent demonstrates he or she is committed to getting back on track, receiving this important tool, [a] driver's license, in return."
Metro on 08/11/2018