Child-support payments boosted by suspensions of driver's licenses

$103 million collected through program in past three years

September 09, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Not making your child support payments? Then forget about having a Maryland driver's license.

That has been the case for tens of thousands of delinquent parents who have lost their licenses in the past three years, and the suspensions have led to the collection of more than $103 million in child-support payments during that time, officials said yesterday.

In releasing the numbers, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the suspensions are an effective tool to force deadbeat parents to meet their obligations.

"Unfortunately, there are a number of individuals who have not taken that responsibility seriously," Glendening said at a news conference in Annapolis. "We have looked for ways to remind them of that responsibility."

In 1995, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing the state to suspend the licenses of parents behind on child support, making Maryland one of the first states to do so. Under federal welfare reform, all states are now required to use such suspensions as leverage with delinquent parents.

Maryland has suspended the licenses of more than 68,000 drivers who were behind in their child-support payments in three years.

Among those vouching for the value of the program was Georgina Allotey, a 44-year-old mother of two from Gaithersburg whose ex-husband made good on $2,700 in back child support only after his driver's license was suspended.

"I've been able to help my daughter buy the things she needs for college," said Allotey, who has a 17-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. "This is very helpful."

The state collected $374 million in child-support payments in the 12 months that ended June 30, more than $56 million of that coming through the driver's license suspension program.

Even with such tools, the state collects only 62 percent of the child support that is supposed to be paid, officials said, and delinquent parents have amassed a backlog of about $1 billion.

Del. Mark K. Shriver, a Montgomery County Democrat who was chief sponsor of the 1995 driver's license legislation, said Maryland must continue to improve its child-support effort.

"There's still a heck of a lot left to do," Shriver said.

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