Woman Wins $150,000 in Child Support From Ex, 50 Years After He Left Her and 3-Year-Old Daughter
When Toni Anderson's ex-husband left her and their 3-year-old daughter, Lane, the mom stepped up to raise their baby girl alone.
Now, nearly 50 years after Anderson's "deadbeat" ex Donald Lenhart, as she calls him, moved to Canada without paying any of his court-ordered child support, she is finally getting her due, plus interest — lots of interest.
A judge ruled in February that Lenhart will have to pay all of what he originally owes, about $35,000, as well as an additional $120,000 in interest.
"I put it on the back burner," Anderson, now 74, told InsideEdition.com of pursuing Lenhart after he left. It was the 1970s, and she had a little girl to take care of and was worried about making ends meet. She and Lane were living paycheck to paycheck, and Anderson was just happy to be able to feed and clothe her daughter.
"I worked very, very hard to give her a nice life," Anderson said.
But then, sometime last year, Anderson had a eureka moment: There's no statue of limitations in California, where the order was handed down. "Now that I'm older and retired, it came to me that I deserve this money," Anderson said.
She Googled her ex and realized he'd moved back to the U.S. and was living in Oregon. Now, it was just a matter of finding a lawyer to help her file a motion of unpaid child support.
Attorney Sara Yunus was initially dubious when Anderson approached her law firm Antonyan Miranda. But then Anderson showed her the original court order from way back in 1970. She was good to go.
"The law allows her to do this," Yunus told InsideEdition.com. "I thought she was brilliant. I thought she was great for doing this."
Many women — and men, Anderson was quick to note — think they have no recourse if their child's other parent leaves them in the lurch. But Anderson wants them to know that it's important not to be afraid to pursue your ex for what's rightfully yours.
"Having sex and having kids is easy," said Anderson. What comes afterward, she added, is the hard part.
But fortunately, the law is Anderson's side, as Yunus said, and it was a surprisingly easy process to get her ex to pay up once Anderson found him.
"He was so shocked," she said, adding that he was "remorseful" for leaving as he did and asked for Anderson's forgiveness.
In a statement via his own attorney, Lenhart said he was happy to pay up.
“I was glad to pay Ms. Anderson the child support that was owed and I wish her only the best in the future,” he said. "We had an informal agreement that I was operating off of after our divorce, but when Ms. Anderson filed her motion in 2018 to collect the $35,000 in principal plus interest, I hired a private investigator to locate her so I could offer her payment. I am pleased we were able to reach an agreement."
Asked if she has advice for others in her situation, Anderson said to "go for it." And if you do, make sure to take a friend for support, she added.
"This was a blessing from God," said Anderson. "I prayed all the time that something good would come out of this."
Added her daughter Lane, now 52, "I'm so proud of my mom for standing up for herself.
"It's been a long journey getting here ... but it took a real level of forgiveness," said Lane. "It's good to have what's fair and just. ... [But] forgiveness. That is really the way."
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