Job searching is incredibly difficult. It becomes much worse when unexpected legal barriers get in the way. The following story is based on the experiences of several jobseekers who became clients of Neighborhood Legal Services Program in DC.
“Marcus” got up early and was out the door. He was excited and nervous. After ten long months of trying to be first in line for the library computers, traveling across the city to check out new job listings, resume workshops, interview workshops, skills trainings, certification courses, and applying to more jobs than he could even remember, Marcus was going to his second interview with a delivery service – and he had a feeling this would be the one.
The delivery company had asked Marcus to bring in a copy of his driving record for this second interview, so he left enough time to pick up the record at the DMV before heading to the interview. Marcus waited in line, told the DMV staff that he wanted a copy of his driving record, and then waited for his paperwork. When they called his name he went to the window and picked up the print out they provided. Just as he turned to walk out the door, he looked down at the first page and noticed: His license was suspended due to child support.
FACT: Your license may be suspended and you don’t know it. If you have not been able to pay child support every month, or if you missed a hearing for a child support matter, you may want to check your driving record by requesting a copy at the DMV just to make sure that everything is all right.
“But I didn’t have a job! How was I supposed to pay child support?” he thought. Marcus hadn’t been to court in over two years for the child support case, but he didn’t think it was necessary. Three years ago, the court ordered him to pay child support at $200 per month to care for his young son, but when he lost his job ten months ago he knew he couldn’t keep paying. Marcus even talked to his ex-girlfriend about it, and she just asked that he start paying again when he got a job. Every few months, she would ask Marcus for money to help with their son, and he would find a way to borrow some cash from family or friends to give her. Marcus had every intention to begin paying child support again, which had been a big part of why he’d worked so hard for that delivery job.
FACT: If you lose your job, or your income decreases, and you can no longer pay your child support order, you need to go to court to get your child support order changed. Otherwise, the court will not know that you’re unable to pay, and you will be held accountable for continuing payments at the original amount!
FACT: Only payments made through the Child Support Clearinghouse count toward paying a child support order. If you pay the other parent/caretaker directly instead, that money is only counted as a gift!
Marcus was determined to fix the suspension of his license. He remembered getting a letter from Child Support Services Division a long time ago, so he went home to look for it. When he found the letter, Marcus noticed that it said he only had 30 days from the date of the letter to fight the suspension of his license. 30 days had already passed! Marcus would not give up that easily, though, and decided to go to the Child Support Services Division to see what could be done.
FACT: Even if the 30 day deadline to contest a revocation has passed, you can still contest a revocation by submitting certain documents to Child Support Services Division. Also, you can show Child Support Services Division that you are in compliance with the child support order and have your license reinstated.
The Child Support Services Division is on the fifth floor of a large building just outside the Judiciary Square Metro stop. Marcus quickly got the paperwork he needed and filled out some information about his child support case. When he heard his name called, a member of the Child Support Services Division staff told him that he was ten months behind in his child support. He said he knew that and explained that he’d lost his job. The staff member told him that she understood, but since he hadn’t gone to court there wasn’t anything she could do. In order to reinstate his license, he’d need to pay off part of the support to the Child Support Clearinghouse and a reinstatement fee to the DMV. Marcus’ heart sunk. He knew he didn’t have the money, he had just lost his best job prospect, and he felt trapped.
FACT: The amount of child support you are responsible for paying can only be changed going forward. It is very important to file a motion to modify your order with the court as soon as you realize you cannot pay the current amount, because it is not possible to modify what you owed in the past!
FACT: Unfortunately, Marcus’ story is not an uncommon one. What Marcus now knows is that addressing a suspended driver’s license can be really tough and impact your job search and other aspects of your life. If your license has been suspended due to unpaid child support, don’t ignore it!
As overwhelming as it might seem to address a suspended driver’s license, overdue child support payments, or a child support order that is too high to pay, these issues can be successfully overcome. You can work with the CSSD and the DMV to pay any fines and fees to get your license back, or show them your license shouldn’t have been revoked and address any outstanding tickets with the DMV.
It is also possible to file a motion to modify your child support order with DC Superior Court, which would allow you to request a child support obligation going forward that you are able to pay. This can help prevent more missed child support payments and protect against your license being suspended in the future. You can also request a copy of your payment history from CSSD to see where you may have missed payments, and correct any mistakes in the record of your payment history.
You can pursue any of the options listed above without an attorney, but it can make a big difference to have an attorney to help you. An attorney can look into your case, advise you on your best arguments for modifying a child support order to a manageable amount and possibly represent you in court. An attorney can also help you determine what actions you need to take with CSSD and the DMV, and make sure they are treating you fairly. Even if you ultimately want to address these issues on your own, starting the process with advice from an attorney can help you figure out which options would work best for you and your case.
Do you know low income jobseekers who are in a similar situation to Marcus? Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) may be able to help. We offer free legal services to low-income District residents and we help with many barriers that keep people from getting jobs. You can reach us at 202-832-NLSP (6577) or see our office locations at www.nlsp.org. If we cannot help with a case, we will look for other organizations that may be able to assist. Resources for modifying child support are also available at lawhelp.org/DC.
These materials were prepared by Neighborhood Legal Services Program of the District of Columbia for general legal information purposes for our client community and other advocates for low-income residents in the District of Columbia law. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice. This information should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your state.