Denial of Licenses for Failure to Pay Child Support

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State law provides for denial or revocation of licenses for failure to pay child support, including licenses, certifications, registrations, permits, approvals and similar documents that grant authority to engage in a profession, trade, occupation, business, or industry, to hunt or fish, and to operate motor vehicles or other conveyances, but not licenses to practice law unless guidelines are established by the Supreme Court. T.C.A. § 36-5-701 et seq.

When records of the court clerk or Department of Human Services (“DHS”) show that child support payments have become delinquent, DHS is authorized to serve notice upon the obligor of the department’s intent to notify licensing authorities that the person is not in compliance with the order of support.  The person is entitled to request an administrative hearing with DHS or make arrangements to correct the delinquency, and to judicial review of the department’s decision.  If the person does not comply with the order, request a hearing, or make arrangements to pay within twenty (20) days of service, DHS may proceed to notify licensing authorities by certifying in writing or by electronic data exchange that the person is not in compliance with the support order.  T.C.A. § 36-5-701 through 36-5-705.

A certification from DHS requires the licensing authority to deny any renewal request, revoke the obligor’s license, or refuse to issue or reinstate the license, as the case may be, until the obligor provides the licensing authority with a release from DHS stating that the obligor is in compliance with the order of support. T.C.A. §§ 36-5-702; 36-5-706.  Upon receipt of a certification from DHS, the licensing authority is required to notify the obligor of the action taken against the license.  The notice is to be sent by regular mail and must state that the obligor’s application for issuance, renewal or reinstatement has been denied, or that the current license has been suspended or revoked due to certification by DHS that the obligor is not in compliance with an order of support.  A notice of suspension must specify the reason and statutory grounds for suspension and the effective date for the suspension.  The notice must also state that a release from DHS must be obtained before the license can be issued, reinstated, or renewed.  T.C.A. § 36-5-706.  When the delinquency has been corrected, DHS is required to inform the licensing authority of compliance.  Unless the time has passed for a new periodic license fee, the obligor is not required to pay a new fee for the remainder of the licensing period; however, the licensing authority may impose a reinstatement fee not to exceed five dollars ($5.00). T.C.A. § 36-5-706; 36‑5‑707.

On or before July 1, 1996, or as soon thereafter as economically feasible and at least annually thereafter, all licensing authorities are required to provide DHS with a database of information on magnetic tape or other machine-readable format (or if this information is not available on magnetic format, in a format agreed upon by the commission of DHS and the licensing authority).  That data shall include information about both applicants and all current licensees (including those currently suspended or revoked if able to be reinstated).  If available, the information is to include name, date of birth, address, social security number or federal employer ID number, description, type of license, effective date and expiration date of license, and status of the license. T.C.A. § 36-5-711.

Courts are also authorized to order the denial, revocation or suspension of a license in connection with proceedings to enforce orders of child support.  If the obligee specifically requests the court to revoke a license, the court may order any or all of the obligor’s licenses be subject to revocation, denial or suspension.  In that case, the clerk of the court will send a copy of the court order to the appropriate licensing authorities, and the licensing authority is required to revoke, deny or suspend the license in accordance with the court’s order.  When the obligor is in compliance with the order of support, the court will enter an order showing a finding of compliance which the clerk will send to each licensing authority, and the licensing authority will then issue, reinstate or reissue the license. T.C.A. § 36-5-101.

All applications for professional licenses, driver licenses, occupational licenses, hunting and fishing licenses or recreational licenses, or marriage licenses issued on and after July 1, 1997 are required to contain the social security number of each applicant. (Note that in connection with marriage licenses, the Tennessee Attorney General has opined that applicants who have not been issued a social security number are not required to provide one in order to obtain a marriage license. Op. Tenn. Att'y Gen. 08-126 (July 22, 2008)).  This principle should apply to other licenses that are subject to this statute, so that applicants are required to provide their social security numbers only if they have one. This information is to be provided to the Department of Human Services or its contractors or agents enforcing Title IV‑D of the Social Security Act, to the extent possible in electronic or magnetic automated formats.  T.C.A. § 36‑5‑1301.