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Thousands of Utahns won't get hunting, fishing licenses because of unpaid child support

Human hand holding fishing rod
Posted at 5:13 PM, Jul 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 18:13:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The letter is hitting mailboxes across Utah.

"This notice is to inform you that according to records maintained by the Office of Recovery Services (ORS), you currently have child support arrears over $2,500.00," it reads, then warns that under a new Utah law, "you may not apply for, obtain, or attempt to obtain a license, permit, or tag for hunting or fishing..."

A law passed by the Utah State Legislature last year is going into effect on July 1. Thousands of delinquents on child support could be denied a hunting or fishing license because they owe more than $2,500 in unpaid child support.

"These children need their child support," said Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, who sponsored the law.

The state is trying to notify people before they show up to purchase a hunting or fishing license and get rejected.

"We want people to know about this before it goes into effect so they can try to rectify it," said Faith Heaton Jolley, a spokesperson for Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources.

Utah's Office of Recovery Services is sending out the letters this week to 19,062 people identified as being behind on child support. Of those, 9,454 people are in both agencies' databases, meaning they have purchased a hunting or fishing license in the past.

But unless they're current on child support or actively making payments, they will be denied a permit this year.

"We don’t want to deny these licenses. We want compliance with child support. We’re hoping this gets their attention; they come in and make the payment arrangements, keep those payment arrangements, and we never take their license," Liesa Stockdale, the director of the Utah Office of Recovery Services, said in an interview with FOX 13.

The agency currently estimates it has more than $377 million in child support arrears that go back decades. The new law might cost Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources more than $440,000 in lost hunting/fishing licenses. (However, Jolley said that with record numbers of tags purchased last year, they do not anticipate a significant loss, if at all.)

If someone pays in full or is currently making payments, they can still potentially get a hunting or fishing license. They need to contact Utah's Office of Recovery Services.

"They do have to basically be paying on that plan for a full 12 months before they would be eligible to get a hunting or fishing license," Jolley said.

Rep. Lisonbee said she has already heard from constituents who are angry with the new law and thrilled with it. She recalled one man who called her upset about his inability to get a hunting license this year, declaring that "child support is socialism."

"I reminded him that as Republicans, we believe that personal responsibility is one of the foremost principles we operate under, and part of personal responsibility is to take care of one’s children," she said.

But Rep. Lisonbee said she's also heard from some happy parents.

"I heard from several women who said, 'I've received my first child support payment in years, and the only thing I can attribute it to is your bill,'" she said.