Prosecutor starts returning driver’s licenses to child support payers

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Meers/ (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Punishment for not paying child support can lead to less child support being paid, according to Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Meers.

That’s why the prosecutor’s office started the Good Faith Initiative: The parent gets started paying support and, in return, is set up for success still having access to the resources they need.

When a parent falls behind on child support payments, they’re punished by losing tax refunds, getting liens on their home, and losing their driver’s licenses. Those restrictions don’t make it easy to make money to pay child support.

“Seems counterintuative to us to say ‘Hey, we want you to pay for your child support,’ but then ‘We’re not going to give you the tool to get to work,’” Meers said. “We believe that the more people who have their driver’s license, they’re going to be in a better position to get a job. If they have that job, then they’re going to be in a position to make those child support payments.”

About 11,000 people in Marion County don’t have their driver’s licenses because they’re behind on child support. That’s where the Good Faith Initiative comes in. It lets someone behind on child support make a payment and get their license back for three months.

“During that three-month period, they have to continue to make some child support payments,” Meers said. “And as long as they do that, their license will remain in effect. If they fall again behind on their child support, in about three months, then the state automatically suspends the driver’s license.”

In the initial run last month, 98 licenses were returned and 97 are being looked at with the promise of continuing child support, which is considered a success, but the programs operators are waiting to add more people to the program until they’ve seen how well the first three months go.

“One of the things we’re going to track is ‘Are these individuals who benefited from their license being reinstated? Are they going to be able to continue and maintain their driver’s license?’” Meers said.

Meers says all of this helps parents be more reliable, but it’s also about the kids. The hope is that parents can more present with their children.

“Unfortunately, in Marion County, you probably need a car to do that and you need a license to drive legally. We’re hopeful that not only will this allow people to work, but it will also allow people to participate more actively in their children’s lives.”

The program isn’t accepting anyone else quite yet. In March, if everything looks positive, they’ll keep the program going. Until then, if you’d like to learn more and get on a wait list, you can email CSGoodFaith@indy.go.