JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Social Services Department isn't going to suspend licenses of deadbeat parents soon, despite a new law that allows them to punish parents delinquent on their child support payments.
"It's likely to be used sparingly," said Micheal Adrian, acting Assistant Deputy Director of the Social Services Department.
Told of the department's position, the bill's sponsor - Rep. Patrick Dougherty, D-St. Louis City - he plans to look into the department's intentions.
Dougherty said he isn't surprised by the delay. "It's normal for a delay of several months in putting this sort of thing together," Dougherty said.
Dougherty said the department had sought for the bill as a needed tool to force parents to make their payments.
"They were pushing for the bill, as a way to force parents to pay child support," Dougherty said.
But the department now expresses some hesitation in using the new power.
"It's definitely going to be a pretty rare case, we don't want people's licenses, we want them to pay child support," Adrian said.
Adrian said that federal law only requires that state agencies be given the power to suspend licenses, but it doesn't require the department to suspend them.
"There's nothing telling us it has to be enforced," Adrian said.
Although the law took effect July 1, the department will not use the new enforcement tools until the first of next year, at the earliest.
According to Deb Hendricks, a spokesperson for the department, the reason for the delay is the need to give delinquent parents a chance to catch up on their payments.
"We are allowing a grace period because we want to give the non-custodial parents a chance to make their payments before we're required to revoke their licenses, " Hendricks said.
Before any suspensions begin, the department is planning to send out notices to all Missourians who pay child support about the changes in the law.
The new law could potentially affect as many as 86,000 cases handled by the Social Services Department. Not all of Missouri's child support cases are handled by Social Services.
Licenses covered by the law include driving, hunting, and professional licenses as well as others issued by the state.
According to the department, those whose licenses could be suspended are at least 3 months behind in payments or owe more than $2500.