A 73-year-old California woman was awarded $150,000 in overdue child support, 50 years after the original order was issued and the father skipped town, NBC News is reporting.
Toni Anderson, 73, was in her early 20s when she and her then-husband, Donald Alan Lenhart, became the parents of Lane Lenhart, who is now 52. Lane was a toddler when Donald left the family, and Toni went after her daughter’s father for child support. And indeed, a judge ordered Donald to pay up.
Unfortunately, Donald skipped town — indeed, the whole country — and is believed to have headed for Canada. And although child support orders are enforceable internationally between the U.S. and Canada, according to Canada’s Department of Justice, Donald didn’t make the payments. Anderson, for her part, was forced to work two jobs and even go on food stamps to make ends meet.
The years passed. Lane reached her 18th birthday without her mother seeing a dime of the $160 per month that her mother tells San Francisco’s KABC-TV that she was owed in child support. She then grew into an adult woman, and her mother reached and passed her own retirement age.
For reasons that remain unclear, Anderson began to suspect recently that her husband may have made it back to the U.S. With the help of her attorney, she found tax records that indicated her ex-husband was living in Oregon. Her original, 1970 support order in hand, Anderson and her attorney showed up to a San Diego courtroom to see if she could get back child support even after five decades.
Toni Anderson says her husband left her and their 3-year-old daughter in the 70s, then realized there was no statute of limitations on child support. https://t.co/bFoxA0lEVE
— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) March 26, 2019
There was no guarantee that Anderson would get that money. It would require getting Lenhart to answer a summons and actually pay the money this time. However, in a move that shocked everyone in the courtroom that day, Lenhart showed up in person, even though he could have handled it all through his attorney.
“I didn’t expect him to show up. I was really shocked to see him.”
Lenhart, for his part, said that he wanted to do right by his daughter and ex-wife after all these years.
Of course, being in arrears for child support for five decades carries with it plenty of interest and penalties. Lenhart and Anderson hashed things out in private and agreed on a settlement of $150,000, just a bit short of the $160,000 he owed legally. He was given two years to pay it off.
Lane Lenhart says her mom’s diligence is inspiring other women to go after their own ex-husbands for decades-old child support payments.
“Since mom put this all out in the world, there have been comment after comment from people that are dealing with the same thing.”