Eugene E. Kinsey, Attorney at Law

323 Main St., 2nd Floor, Seal Beach, CA 90740




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License Suspension - General Concepts

Anyone falling more than 30 days behind in child support payments risks nonissuance/nonrenewal of a driver's license (and/or other professional licsnse). [Ca Fam § 17520; see Ca Fam § 17520(a) (4),(5) & (6) (defining "compliance" with support order, "license" and "licensee"); see also Ca Bus & Prof § 31]

The statutory license penalty procedures may be used to enforce spousal support only when the local child support agency is also enforcing a related child support obligation owed to the obligee parent by the same obligor pursuant to Ca Fam §§ 17400 and 17604. See Ca Fam § 17520(a)(4).

The same statutory scheme authorizes suspension of the requisite license, etc. if the obligor is in arrears for more than four months. [Ca Fam § 17520(e)(3); Ca Bus & Prof § 490.5]

The suspension takes effect 150 days after service of the notice of suspension and, thereafter, will effectively suspend the license indefinitely unless, during the 150-day period, the DMV or other licensing board receives a release from the local child support agency that submitted the obligor's name. [See Ca Fam § 17520(e) (3),(f)(2),(i) & (w)]

Initiation Of The Suspension By Support Agency

Section 17520 proceedings are initiated by the local child support agency, which is required to maintain a list of obligors who are more than 30 days in arrears in court-ordered child or family support. A certified list of such obligors must be submitted monthly to the State Department of Child Support Services (DCSS). [Ca Fam § 17520(b)]

Within 30 days of receipt of the agency's certified list, the DCSS provides a copy to the DMV (or other licensing board) for processing pursuant to § 17520. [Ca Fam § 17520(c) & (d)]

Before issuing or renewing a license, the DMV or other licensing board must determine whether the applicant is on the certified list. If so, the license applicant must be served with notice of its intent to withhold issuance or renewal of the license. The notice must advise the applicant regarding issuance of a temporary license and provide the address and telephone number of the agency that certified the applicant's name on the list, emphasizing the necessity of obtaining a release from the local child support agency as a prerequisite to issuance or renewal of the license [Ca Fam § 17520(e) & (f)] A copy of DCSS form for requesting agency review must be included with the notice)]

License applicants must be issued a temporary license effective for 150 days. Upon the agency's request or by court order for good cause shown, the temporary driver's license (but not a commercial driver's license) may be extended for up to 150 additional days. [Ca Fam § 17520(e)(2)(D)]

Contesting The Suspension By Support Agency Internal Review

Child support obligors may have the underlying arrearage and defenses investigated, obtain information concerning modification of the support order, and receive assistance in establishing a payment schedule on the arrearages. [Ca Fam § 17520(g)]

A support agency internal review is the first mandatory recourse for applicants wishing to challenge the § 17520 license penalty. [See Ca Fam § 17520(h) & (o)]

To initiate an agency review, the support obligor must make a "timely" written request with the local child support agency that certified the applicant's name. Though there is no per se time limit, the obligor must generally act in sufficient time to allow completion of both the agency review and judicial review processes before expiration of the 150-day temporary license period. [Ca Fam § 17520(h) & (i)]

The agency must resolve the applicant's challenge within 30 days (although the director of the agency can extend that period for another 30 days). [Ca Fam §§ 17520(h), 17800]

The local child support agency must release the obligor license applicant from the certified list if it finds any of the following conditions is met (Ca Fam § 17520(h)):

  • The applicant is in "compliance" with the support order (see Ca Fam § 17520(a)(4)) or negotiates an agreement with the agency for a payment schedule on arrearages or reimbursement (Ca Fam § 17520(h)(1));

  • The agency cannot complete its review and send notice of its findings to the applicant within the time allowed by Ca Fam § 17800);

  • The applicant has filed and served a request for judicial review but that review will not be completed within the 150-day temporary license period (unless the delay is a result of the applicant's failure to act in a "reasonable, timely, and diligent manner" upon receiving notice of the agency's findings) (Ca Fam § 17520(h)(3));

  • The applicant has obtained a judicial finding of compliance with the support order (Ca Fam § 17520(h)(4)).

Judicial Review Of Support Agency's Refusal To Lift The Suspension - Motion For Conditional Release

In the event the local child support agency denies the requested release, the obligor may obtain a judicial review of the agency's decision by promptly filing an "Order To Show Cause" (OSC) or notice of motion (a copy must be served on the agency within seven days of filing the motion). [Ca Fam § 17520(j) & (k)]

The obligor's motion must state the grounds for which review is requested; and judicial review "shall be limited" to the grounds specified. An evidentiary hearing on the motion will be held within 20 calendar days after the motion is filed. [Ca Fam § 17520(k)]

Only the following issues may be considered and determined by judicial review of the agency's decision (Ca Fam § 17520(k)):

• Whether there is a support judgment, order or payment schedule on arrearages or reimbursement (Ca Fam § 17520(k)(1));

• Whether the petitioner is the obligor covered by the support judgment or order (Ca Fam § 17520(k)(2));

• Whether the obligor is or is not in compliance with the support judgment or order (Ca Fam § 17520(k)(3));

• The extent to which the obligor's needs, taking into account his or her payment history and the "current circumstances" of both the obligor and obligee, warrant a conditional release (below) (Ca Fam § 17520(k) (4)(A)).

A conditional release pursuant to § 17520 (k)(4)(A) must be supported by findings of fact stating the basis therefor and the payment "necessary to satisfy the unrestricted issuance or renewal of the license without prejudice to a later judicial determination of the amount of support arrearages"; it must also specify payment terms, compliance with which is required for the release to remain in effect. [Ca Fam § 17520(k)(4)(C)]

Note: Section 17520(k) only limits the issues that may be considered at a hearing reviewing the agency's decision to deny a release from the certified list. The obligor is still entitled to file an independent OSC or motion to modify the support order, to fix a payment schedule on arrears accruing under the support order, or to obtain a court finding of compliance with the support order. [Ca Fam § 17520(j)]

If the judicial review results in a finding that the obligor is in "compliance" with the support order or judgment (see Ca Fam § 17520(a)(4)), the local child support agency must immediately send a release to the appropriate board and the applicant. [Ca Fam § 17520(k)(4)(C)]

Otherwise, unless the applicant is not the obligor under the support order, there is in fact no support order then in existence, or the court finds a basis for a conditional release, the obligor's name will remain on the certified list and the license suspension penalty will remain in effect, unless and until he or she comes into compliance with the support order.

Release Upon Compliance

Once the obligor is in "compliance" with the support order (see Ca Fam § 17520(a)(4)), the local child support agency must mail a release to the obligor and the appropriate licensing board. Receipt of the release effectively removes the obligor's name from the certified list (permitting issuance or renewal of a full-term or remaining-term license) unless and until the agency certifies a subsequent noncompliance (thereby starting the licensing penalty process anew). [Ca Fam § 17520(l)]


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