PHOENIX — Deadbeat parents who don't stay current on their child support won't necessarily end up walking under the terms of legislation approved Tuesday by a Senate panel.
Current law requires a judge to suspend the driving privileges of someone who is found to have willfully failed to make payments for at least six months. Only when that person becomes current can he or she seek reinstatement.
The problem with that, according to Rep. Regina Cobb, R-Kingman, is it can be self-defeating. Put simply, losing the ability to drive could also mean losing the ability to pay the support.
“It doesn't really help pay the bills,” she explained. Her HB 2192 would permit a judge to give that person a restricted license.
“They can go to work or to school,” she explained to members of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The move has the backing of the state Department of Economic Security which gets involved in these cases of court-ordered child support.
“It is just another enforcement tool that allows that non-custodial parent to continue working while still having meaningful involvement with their children, with parenting time, while also furthering their education and continuing to work to support those children,” said agency lobbyist Katy Ber. That's because the restricted license makes someone eligible to not only go to and from work or school but permit that person to drive for parenting time visits.
Ber told lawmakers the law would be enforced by police the same way they handle other situations where someone’s driving privileges are restricted. She said police, on pulling someone over, would be able to check through a database whether there are limits and then determine if the driver is violating them.
And the legislation allows a court to suspend someone's driving privileges entirely for violations, not only of the driving restrictions but failing to stay current with a payment plan.
Not everyone will quality.
Under the terms of HB 2192, the option of a restricted license versus suspension is available to someone working at least 30 hours a week and has a place of employment or attends school that is at least a mile from the person's residence. Those seeking the restricted license also must show that the employment or education “can reasonably be expected to contribute to bringing the obligor into compliance with the support order in a timely manner.”
The unanimous approval of the panel sends the measure to the full Senate. It already has cleared the House.