Montgomery County leads state in child support license suspensions

Unanimously approved bipartisan Senate bill awaits first hearing in House

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Montgomery County suspends far more of its residents’ drivers licenses for non-payment of child support than any other county in Ohio, a Dayton Daily News analysis found.

Surrounding counties such as Butler and Greene counties are also in the top 10 for the number of licenses suspended, according to data from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

This means proposed state legislation that would make it easier for people to avoid license suspensions for non-payment of child support — among other things — could have outsized impact locally.

In 2023, the most recent year with full data, Montgomery County’s Department of Job and Family Services suspended 2,129 licenses due to child support issues. The next closest county was the considerably more populated Hamilton County with 1,442 suspensions — a difference of 687 suspensions.

Put another way: Of the 14,697 licenses suspended in Ohio in 2023 for child support issues, Montgomery County was responsible for 14.5% of them, despite only holding about 4.5% of the state’s population.

In 2022, Montgomery County issued nearly twice as many suspensions as the next highest county, far outpacing larger counties such as Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton.

So far this year, Montgomery County remains on top, with Butler County the fifth highest and Greene County the 10th highest.

The state gives leeway to counties in how they implement license suspensions for child support nonpayment, according to state officials.

Why so high?

Reba Chenoweth, spokesperson for the Montgomery County JFS, said the department views license suspensions as “essentially a last-resort to motivate parents (obligors) required to pay court-ordered support to fulfill their duty to their children.”

Chenoweth said Montgomery County leads all metro counties, and indeed the state, in collections on overdue support and currently ranks second for current collections. She said the department’s enforcement efforts result in “more than $100 million collected for Montgomery County Children each year.”

“Some of our success can be attributed to utilizing tools such as license suspension in the most efficient and effective manner,” she said.

Late last year, an official from Montgomery County JFS testified as an interested party before the Ohio Senate about the proposal and warned the Ohio Senate not to dilute counties’ enforcement power when collecting overdue child support.

Chenowith said Montgomery County offers multiple avenues for license reinstatement, including payment plans and local family support programs.

Proposed legislation

Senate Bill 37, which has already been unanimously approved by the Senate and is awaiting its first hearings in the House, would give Ohioans in default on their child support the chance to provide evidence that a driver’s license suspension would effectively prevent them from paying their child support in the future.

The bill would also authorize, but not require, that a defendant’s submitted evidence be taken under consideration before notifying the state’s registrar to terminate their driver’s license.

Local lawmakers have expressed support for the measure.

“The reality is that many individuals rely on driving to go to work, and by suspending the driver’s licenses of those individuals we are creating a barrier for them to work and pay their child support,” said state Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., D-Dayton.

Ohio places the responsibility of collecting child support, and in turn punishing those who fail to meet certain criteria, onto its job and family services network, which consists of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in coordination 88 county agencies, which are ran independently by the the counties but overseen by the state.

State law, which is bound to federal law, sets the criteria for who may face a child-support related license suspension. Tom Betti, spokesperson for the Ohio JFS, explained that Ohioans need to meet all six criteria in order to get their license suspended:

• The person is in default of their child support obligation, which occurs when they fail to comply with a support order and did not pay an amount equaling at least one month’s obligation;

• The person was notified of their failure to pay;

• The person was in default for at least 90 days;

• The individual was sent an advanced notice of their proposed license suspension;

• The person failed to pay at least 50% of their total obligation due in the 90 days before that advance notice was sent;

• It had been at least 10 days, and not more than 90 days, since the person received the advance notice.

Once a county determines that an individual is eligible for a license suspension, Betti said, it’s largely left up to the county to decide whether or not to pull the trigger. If they do decide to move forward with a suspension, most have the unilateral power to do so by quickly contacting the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which almost instantaneously suspends the license in question.

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Avery Kreemer can be reached at 614-981-1422, on X, via email, or you can drop him a comment/tip with the survey below.

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