Robin Platte


In many communities across Pennsylvania, maintaining employment without a driver’s license is extremely difficult. Section 4355 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code authorizes license suspension as a means to encourage child support payments. Unfortunately, license suspensions rarely result in obligors making payments. Instead, suspensions often lead to loss of employment and financial insecurity. Under Section 4355, if an obligor falls three months behind in child support payments, their professional, recreational, and driver’s licenses may be suspended indefinitely. Coincidentally, the obligor’s actual ability to pay may not be considered in a pre-suspension hearing. Even those who fall far below the national poverty level are subject to license suspension. By making it more difficult for obligors to find and maintain employment, Section 4355 initiates and exacerbates a ruthless cycle of debt and poverty.

Regrettably, Pennsylvania cannot abolish license suspension entirely while complying with federal law. However, the Pennsylvania General Assembly can and must amend Section 4355 to require consideration of an obligor’s ability to pay, and to make license suspensions a last-resort enforcement tool. This Comment recommends three provisions that would limit license suspensions under Section 4355: (1) an exhaustion provision, (2) an increased enforcement trigger period, and (3) a hardship or poverty exemption provision. By amending Section 4355, Pennsylvania lawmakers can help obligors stay employed to ensure financial support for children throughout the Commonwealth.



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