Utah Law Witholds Hunting & Fishing Licenses For People Who Don’t Pay Child Support

The state of Utah is seeing a huge increase in parents following through with their child support obligations this year thanks to a new law that withholds hunting and fishing licenses to those who fall behind on payments or simply refuse to make them, KTLA reports. The law went into effect in 2021.

It was an ingenious solution to a serious problem. State Rep. Karianne Lisonbee authored and passed the bill back in 2020 and to be honest, it’s pretty smart. “I came up with the idea for the bill, actually, in talking with some of my constituents who had noncustodial partners that were overdue on child support and going out and spending lots and lots of money hunting and fishing,” she said.

The law applies to those who owe more than $2,500 in child support in a given year. This won’t affect anyone who’s only a month or two behind but is targeting serious delinquency. “A lot of people talk about sending people to jail or prison instantly when they hear non-collection of child support, non-payment of child support. But in reality, if they’re going to prison or jail, they’re not working, so that’s not helping solve the problem,” said Utah Office of Recovery Services (ORS) director Liesa Stockdale, whose agency manages child support in the state. “And when they get out they have marks on their record, they have legal marks on their record that could prevent them from getting future employment. So that’s not helping. And then there’s a stigma for the children involved that their parent has had to go to jail or prison. And that’s not helping anything.”

The crazy thing is, it’s actually working. Back in July 2021, Utah blocked the hunting and fishing licenses of 2,959 people. Stockdale has provided data showing that nearly a sixth of those have since paid up. “Out of those people, when we looked at it again, this year, during the first week of July, 494 of those people had come into compliance with the law at some point during that first year,” she said, adding that while there’s no way to tell why they actually got up to date with payments, it certainly seems possible the law had something to dow ith it.

There’s been an increase in payments of more than $2 million. Stockdale said much of that cash came from people whose licenses had been withheld. Ultimately, she believes creative solutions like this are the way forward. “It’s a matter of finding that right incentive for your community, even for different parents within your community,” she said. “Two-thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine individuals, that’s only a small portion of our parents who owe child support. And we need to continue to be creative to find those little incentive niches that will speak to different parents and will mean something to them.”

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