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Responding to Congressional pressure and the problem of substantial delinquencies in court-ordered child support payments—much of it owed to the state which sought to recover welfare payments—New Jersey in 1998 amended its child support act, providing in NJSA 2A:17-56.41 (a) for suspension of driving licenses “as a matter of law” if a child support arrearage equals or exceeds the amount of child support payable for six months or court-ordered health care coverage for the child is not provided for six months. Judges, on the recommendation of probation officers, issued failure to pay (FTP) warrants by virtue of which the statutes provides the “obligor’s driver’s license shall be suspended by operation of law.”

Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson has ruled that this “automatic” suspension of driving privileges violates both “due process” and “fundamental fairness.” Relying on our state constitution in her 187-page opinion in Kavadas v. Martinez as chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Division, the Mercer County assignment judge enjoined such automatic suspensions and gave the state 120 days to devise regulations to eliminate this practice by which some 20,000 people each year have lost their driving licenses without notice or an opportunity to be heard.

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