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Last year, Texas began warning parents who owed back child support that they would not be able to renew their car registration without beginning to make payments. Now those warnings have become real, and the state has collected more than $160,000 in child support in the program's first month of operation.
Deadbeat Debt Collection
Texas's idea is simple: Parents who have not posted child support payments for at least six months can be denied vehicle registration renewals. The Department of Motor Vehicles and the state attorney general's office send warning letters to parents about two months before their registration is set to expire. After delinquent parents receive a notice, they are required to begin a payment plan with the attorney general's child support division before they can renew their registration.
As far as the attorney general's office is concerned, the program so far has been a success. "The attorney general's office uses many tools to compel delinquent parents to pay child support," Janece Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the child support division in the attorney general's office, told the Dallas Morning News. "We are thankful that this one has resulted in more support paid for the benefit of our state's most precious resource: our children." Texas leads the country in child support collection rate, raking in $3.9 billion last year.
Skirting the System
But the new enforcement program isn't perfect. The new rules don't apply to jointly owned vehicles or titles held by someone other than the parent behind on payments, and county tax collectors have already seen drivers transfer their vehicle titles to a family member to avoid losing their registration.
Additionally, the program might be targeting the wrong kind of parent. Michael Wysocki, a family law attorney, told the Morning News most parents aren't intentionally avoiding child support payments, but simply can't afford them. "I question whether or not the policy behind it was to make it even more difficult for a significant number of parents to catch up on their payments," Wysocki said, adding, "we need to be looking at whether or not the statute will have a chilling effect on the lower-income parents' ability to continue to earn a living."