More than 3,000 Delawareans had their driver's license suspended for falling behind on child support in 2016
Whether it’s getting expelled from school or falling behind on child support – there are more than 40 reasons Delawareans can lose driving privileges.
Delinquency on child support is one of the most common, accounting for 3,161 suspensions in 2016. An additional 117 were suspended for drivers who had an outstanding Family Court capias or bench warrant for failure to appear at any paternity or child support proceeding in a Department of Child Support Services case.
Custodial parent blasts state
Tabitha Hickey, 39, is a custodial parent who disagrees with the state policy. Hickey said the law burdens the custodial parent and child, something she’s experienced.
“My ex-husband was a [commercial driver’s license] truck driver and drove across country for his job,” the Smyrna resident said. “With a suspended license, he wouldn’t be able to drive that CDL truck to be able to get me that child support that was required by the state of Delaware.”
Hickey said she was furious with the state when her ex-husband called her from Washington state around 2009 to say he was being held there because his license was suspended.
“It was just insane,” said Hickey, who explained she was owed roughly $2,500 in back child support at that time. “He sat [in his truck] for five days until I could get it figured out. He shouldn’t have had to sit there for five days.”
Hickey said she resolved the situation by terminating her ex-husband’s child support. After three years of receiving inconsistent payments, Hickey had enough.
“It drove me more crazy than anything,” Hickey said. “I was over it at that point, fighting with child support and fighting with Family Court. I was done.”
Recession took man’s license
Sussex County resident Peter Marconi, 56, said his driver’s license was suspended a few years ago; and it wasn’t because he was a deadbeat dad.
Marconi couldn’t keep up with payments once his retail business began to fail in the 2008 recession, he said. He ended up losing the business and his home, he said.
Marconi said he faithfully paid his mandatory $1,200-per-month in support before the recession - from 2003 to 2007. Despite that, around 2010 he found himself $12,000 in the hole, and it cost him his driving privileges.
“I was completely surprised,” the Dagsboro resident said. “I had a Selbyville police officer randomly run my tag. He pulled me over and impounded my car.”
Marconi said it cost around $200 to get his car back and another $50 to lift his driving suspension. He borrowed from a friend to do it.
The judge, however, wasn’t lenient on him in court, Marconi explained.
“I said, ‘Your Honor, I lost my business and I’m losing my home,’ which I eventually lost. ‘I can’t afford a lawyer, so I need your help,’” Marconi said. “The judge said to me, this is a direct quote verbatim, he said, ‘The economy is no excuse.’”
Attorney: suspending license a ‘bad idea’
Personal injury attorney Ben Schwartz, of Schwartz & Schwartz Attorneys at Law, P.A., said it’s unfair to suspend a noncustodial parent’s license for past-due child support.
Schwartz, a Dover native, said it punishes the custodial parent and child when the noncustodial parent has their license suspended, because it makes it harder for them to find or keep a job, especially in rural areas like Sussex County where public transportation is scarce.
But Department of Justice spokesman Carl Kanefsky said the law serves a purpose.
“The purpose of the law and the suspension is to address a parent who is not meeting their support obligation toward their children,” Kanefsky wrote in a statement.
Schwartz, a member of the Kent County Bar Association, said the noncustodial parent should never have driving privileges suspended unless they’re a dangerous driver.
“When parents are delinquent on their child support, punishing them is a bad idea,” he said. “It makes them resent the child and the people who stepped up to care for the child. It doesn’t make them better parents.”
The veteran attorney said in his experience, most parents aren’t able to pay because of reasons they can’t control.
“People that don’t pay child support are usually unable to pay child support because illness - physical illness or mental illness - prevented them from being reliable enough to maintain employment,” he said.