Behind in child support? You could lose your driver's licence

The B.C. government has introduced a bill that would allow ICBC to cancel the driver's licence of a person behind in their child or spousal support payments.

If bill passes, ICBC could cancel a licence when someone owes more than $3,000

The government of B.C. is proposing to enforce child and spousal support with the threat of withholding driver's licences from people who owe more than $3,000. (David Horemans/CBC)

The B.C. government has introduced a bill that would allow driver's licences to be cancelled when people fall behind in their child or spousal support payments by at least $3,000.

ICBC, the government-owned insurance corporation, can now take action only when a licence is up for renewal. 

"There is a potential that someone who just renewed their licence, that isn't paying child support, could say 'you know what, I don't have to pay, because it's three or four years before I have to renew my licence, and that's fine," said Attorney General David Eby after introducing the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act. 

"They can act more quickly because three or four years is a long time in the life of a child who isn't receiving child support from a parent who's not paying. This is a serious tool."

The government said the revocation of the licence wouldn't be automatic, but another tool the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP) could use to put pressure on people to pay, along with the current practices of garnisheeing wages or suspending licences when they expire.

"The concern is a parent who is in significant arrears and refuses to come up with a plan or respond to the reality that their child needs that support," said Eby. 

In addition, the legislation would create greater privacy for parents who file a support agreement with the Land Titles Registry to guarantee it against property owned by a former spouse. Only pertinent information would be included in the public record rather than the full child-support agreement.

According to the government, about 70,000 parents are enrolled in the FMEP, with about 92 per cent paying on time. However, in 2014 approximately $538 million was cumulatively unpaid.

The government says that the new guidelines would go into effect within three months if the bill is passed.