Enforcers of the state's deadbeat parent laws are failing to use often enough one of most powerful tools in their box of incentives -- the threat of a loss of a driver's license, according to an audit released yesterday.
According to the law, parents who are at least 56 days delinquent in child support payments -- or owe more than $500 in back child support -- can have their driver's license suspended.
But during a single two-month period, the state's Child Support Enforcement Division sent out warning letters to only 3 percent of the nearly 27,000 parents who were in violation of the law, according to the report from state Auditor Joseph DeNucci's office.
Delinquent parents in Massachusetts owe about $1.5 billion.
``License suspension should only be used as a last resort, because it could deprive a parent of the means of getting to work," DeNucci said in a statement. ``However, there are many cases in which a warning can get the attention of a delinquent parent."
The Child Support Enforcement Division is under the state Department of Revenue. Spokesman Tim Connolly said that the threat of license suspension is ``probably one of the most effective tools that the child support enforcement division has in collecting money." He said the division recently passed the $70 million mark for collections.
``We're doing more suspensions all the time," he said. ``We do agree that we can improve it and make it better."
Connolly said a recent change in the system will automatically send out initial warning letters to delinquent parents, once they pass a threshold.