Penalties for the failure of a parent to pay court-ordered child support payments can often be severe. Apart from potential criminal charges, states like California often have the ability to implement wage and bank account garnishments, retain state and federal tax return monies and even revoke or suspend a person’s driving privileges. Some people feel that this is unnecessarily harsh and, in certain cases, may actually prohibit the party who is in arrears from paying their child support obligations.
A man in another state recently filed an appeal on constitutional grounds from a lower court ruling that suspended his commercial driving license (CDL). His license was suspended for failure to pay support since 2009, and he was also denied issuance of a ‘limited’ CDL. The appeal filed on his behalf described this prohibition against as limited license as nonsensical and argued that the penalty itself was unconstitutional because it did not equally affect those against whom it was applied. The appeal asserted that those who lived in rural areas would be more greatly affected than those in metropolitan areas due to the lack of public transportation available. A district court agreed with the man’s appeal, but the case was further appealed to the state’s highest court.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals, however, overturned the first appeals court. It ruled that the Supreme Court of the United States does not consider the right to work at a particular job, such as driving a truck, a fundamental right. The Minnesota court confirmed that there was a ‘rational connection’ between prohibiting the issuance of a temporary CDL and the interests of the public in having the plaintiff pay his back child support obligations. In other words, the measure has been found to be effective.
The primary obligation of a parent is to support their children, and that is as true in California as it is in any other jurisdiction. Family courts and child support enforcement units regularly work with parents to help them meet their obligations and stay within state guidelines. Nevertheless, the continued willful failure of a parent to meet court-ordered obligations not only affects the well-being of their children but can and often does result in harsh penalties.
Source: minnesota.publicradio.org, “Court: State may strip driver’s license of people delinquent on child support,” Bob Collins, May 6, 2013