Jeffery M. Leving: Let’s Stop License Revocation For Non-Driving Offenses

Article provided by Jeffery M. Leving

A cure that’s worse than the disease in Illinois is the "Deadbeats Don’t Drive" Act of 1996, which allows for the suspension or revocation of drivers licenses for parents — almost entirely fathers — who fall behind in paying child support.

I recently attended an event at which agents of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Division of Child Support Services, offered information on getting licenses restored — but not until after we heard the testimony of many individuals affected by loss of their license.

Brave men stepped to the microphone to tell how they were served with a paternity action while they were away on military duty, and by the time they returned, it was too late to respond and dispute the claim, so they were stuck paying child support for a child that was not theirs. Another man was a truck driver who lost his license, got a warehouse job for $15 an hour (a significant pay cut, making it harder to pay child support), drove to this job without a license, got stopped by the cops and thrown in jail, consequently losing his job and leaving him unable to pay any child support.

Several men stated that even though their license was suspended or revoked, they’re driving anyway — without insurance — because they have to.

Other men said they support their children, to the tune of hundreds of dollars a month, by paying school fees and medical bills or buying clothes, books and sports equipment. But since these are not direct cash payments to their child’s mother, they don’t count as child support. License loss ensues.

Fathers (and non-fathers saddled with paternity for children who are not theirs) recounted a litany of injustice and woe, from child support orders that remain unchanged even when men lose their jobs or have their hours cut back. There are mothers who won’t let fathers see their children and mothers who impede the efforts of fathers to see their children who are over age 18, at which time it is the adult child’s choice of whether to have a relationship with one or both parents.

These stories were all similar to the stories of the men I have represented over four decades practicing family law and advocating for fathers who are struggling for fair treatment in court and our administrative law systems.

These are mostly blue-collar men trying to make a living and provide for their families, and bureaucratic obstacles are placed in their way.

I want our Illinois legislators to ask themselves: Does suspending licenses help child support collection, or does it reduce collection, burden taxpayers and cause unsafe conditions on our roads?

We should get rid of drivers license suspension and revocation for child support delinquency, which has nothing to do with driving. The state also will suspend licenses for individuals who owe debts for parking tickets and late fees, and even for defaulting on student loans — also bad policy, especially in low-income communities.

I can’t begin to tell you how counterproductive taking away a drivers license is. These guys have to drive to work — especially in rural parts of our state. Sometimes their job requires a drivers license because they’re driving a truck, a bus, an Uber car or a taxi. Sometimes they’re driving the company vehicle to the job site. Whatever it is they’re doing, trying to make a living, trying to get current on child support, having the state take away their drivers license does not help. I shake my head so often at the laws we pass in this country. We are our own worst enemy.

I urge Illinois lawmakers next year to pass legislation that ends drivers license suspension and revocation for matters that are unrelated to driving. It’ll make our roads safer, and it’ll improve the lives of children and their parents.

Jeffery M. Leving, founder and president of the Law Offices of Jeffery M. Leving Ltd., is an advocate for the rights of fathers. He is the author of "Fathers’ Rights and How to be a Good Divorced Dad."