Hunting license suspension project doubles child support collections
July 8, 2004
BISMARCK, N.D. – The application deadlines for deer and fall turkey hunting have passed, but some hunters may get unwelcome news if they aren’t current with their child support payments. North Dakota’s child support enforcement program will continue the license suspension efforts that resulted in 142 suspensions in 2003 on $2.3 million in overdue child support. Last year, the project also generated 46 payment plans covering $514,186 in overdue child support, initially resulting in $7,753 in down payments from noncustodial parents. Eleven of these 46 parents had failed to make a payment in August 2003 before the license suspension effort.
Monthly collections from the parents who entered into payment plans nearly doubled in the six months following the license suspension effort, growing from $7,775 in August 2003 to an average of $14,281 per month from December 2003 through May 2004.
“These results are very encouraging because of the positive impact on affected children,” said North Dakota Department of Human Services Executive Director Carol K. Olson. “We are grateful to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the state’s game wardens for their help with this enforcement project, and we look forward to forming similar partnerships with other state and local licensing authorities.”
According to Child Support Enforcement Division Director Mike Schwindt, “the response to this new enforcement tool has been pretty positive. Most people recognize that hunting is a privilege, and the needs of children should come first.”
Of the roughly 400 hunters who were identified last fall as owing more than $5,000 in past-due support, 248 notices were sent informing hunters that their licenses would be suspended unless they settled their debts to their children or arranged payment plans. The department removed 82 individuals from the list primarily because their debts were projected to be paid off in less than 120 months, the maximum repayment period permitted under the new law.
“With 46 payment plans resulting from the original 248 notices, this effort generated some very positive results for one in five of the affected families, and I expect the collection rate to increase this year,” said Schwindt. “When we started this process last year, many hunters received their license suspension notices after they had already received their lottery-issued hunting licenses. We are building on that process this year. In fact, 30 previously suspended hunters will be receiving notices that their applications for lottery licenses were excluded from this year’s drawings.”
To promote parental responsibility and to increase child support collections, the 2003 North Dakota Legislature gave the child support enforcement program authority to suspend driver’s licenses, professional licenses, recreational licenses, and motor vehicle registrations. These actions were previously available only to the courts. For years, county and state child support enforcement officials have been able to deny passports, make reports to credit bureaus, and intercept tax refunds and estate settlements in order to satisfy unmet child support obligations.
North Dakota child support collections totaled a record $91 million in 2003. While collections continue to grow, state officials said outstanding balances still total about $200 million.
The state child support enforcement program impacts about 140,000 people, mainly children. County-operated social service boards, regional child support enforcement units, clerks of court, and the North Dakota Department of Human Services provide enforcement services.
Mike Schwindt, Director, Child Support Enforcement Division, (701) 328-3582, or Heather Steffl, Public Information Officer, (701) 328-4933