(NEW YORK) -- A California woman was finally awarded child support 50 years after her ex-husband moved to Canada without making any of the court-ordered payments.
Toni Anderson, 74, said she raised her 3-year-old daughter on her own after Donald Lenhart moved in the early 1970s when the couple got divorced. Lenhart is now back in the U.S. and lives in Oregon.
"He made the first payment, $160," Anderson told Good Morning America. "I was so excited, I will never forget. I deposited in my account and it bounced."
Anderson said for 49 years, her husband failed to make monthly child support payments, including $210 per month for a period of 30 months and thereafter child support payments of $160 per month until the child reached the age of 21.
"I struggled a lot," Anderson said. "I lived from paycheck to paycheck and I had to take a couple jobs, and it was a detriment to my daughter because I really wasn't there for her."
Anderson's daughter Lane Lenhart, 52, told GMA, "It was a challenge for me because mom was always working, always had to support us so she was never around. That was hard."
Anderson said in February, she woke up in the middle of the night and realized there's no statute of limitations on child support in California. Anderson dug up old court papers and notified her ex-husband.
According to the lawsuit, Lenhart owed $153,090, which includes back child support with interest and attorney fees.
Lenhart said in a statement to GMA through his attorney, "I was glad to pay Ms. Anderson the child support that was owed and I wish her only the best in the future. 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."
The statute of limitations law for child support debt vary widely from state to state. In some cases, a parent has 10 years to file a complaint. In other states -- like California, where Anderson lives -- there's no deadline.
"Hopefully it will motivate individuals who owe the child support to come forward and pay that child support so they're not hauled in court," said Areva Martin, an attorney who's not affiliated with Anderson and Lenhart's case.
Lenhart paid Anderson, who said she wants other single parents to know their rights and that there might be an opportunity to collect unpaid child support at any time.
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