Unpaid child support can put incredible stress on a single parent trying to maintain a quality of life for a child. While its the legal responsibility of both parents to financially support a child, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, however, justice comes to those who wait – even if it means decades.
In a recent decision from a California divorce court in Carlsbad, the judge awarded an elderly woman $150,000 in unpaid child support payments 50 years after her ex-husband skipped down without paying. The woman – Toni Anderson’s – story is an inspiration to parents everywhere that may not have received the full amount of child support ex-spouses owed them according to court orders. The message is this: it is never too late to seek backpay for unpaid child support after a divorce.
Child Support Laws in California
Child support is a type of payment one parent may owe the other after a divorce. The point of child support is to preserve the quality of life a child enjoyed while the parents were married so the divorce does not unfairly punish children of the marriage. Typically, the courts will assign one parent child support payments in an amount based on a variety of factors, unless the parents can work together to create their own agreement.
- Both spouses’ incomes
- Parenting time for each spouse
- Number of children
- Health care and education expenses
- Costs of caring for the children
- Any special needs
If one spouse has to pay child support based on a court order, either in monthly payments or (less commonly) one lump sum, that spouse cannot refuse to pay. Failure to meet the child support payment requirement is a crime that could result in holding the spouse in contempt of court, jail time, and/or wage garnishment to fulfill the support order. Unfortunately, in Ms. Toni Anderson’s case, her ex-husband moved to Canada and disappeared off the record. This delayed her ability to hold him responsible for the payments until 2019 – 50 years after the divorce.
Details About the Anderson Case
In 1968, a California judge ordered Mr. Don Lenhert to pay his ex-wife Toni Anderson $210 a month for the first two and a half years, and then $160 until their three-year-old daughter turned 18. Lenhert made the first payment in a check that bounced, and then skipped town to Canada. Anderson worked hard as an interior designer to pay for her daughter’s care as a single mother, without receiving a dime from Lenhert. Then, 50 years later, she heard her ex-husband might have moved back to the States.
In 2019, Anderson took Lenhert to court in pursuit of the child support he legally owed. The amount he should have paid amounted to $35,000, but Anderson’s final settlement came to $150,000 because of interest and penalties over the course of the last 50 years. Lane, the couple’s now 53-year-old daughter, says no amount of money can make up for the time she lost with her mother because of how hard she had to work to make ends meet. Lenhert said in a statement through his lawyer that he was glad to pay what he owed, and that he wished her the best in the future.
What to Do About Unpaid Child Support
If an ex-spouse owes you money in unpaid child support payments in California, seek assistance from a family law attorney. Do not be afraid to go up against your ex-spouse in pursuit of backpay and penalty payments. The law will be on your side if the courts issued a child support order that your ex-spouse is ignoring. Your ex-spouse could face arrest, charges, and solutions such as wage garnishment to make sure you obtain the money he or she owes you.
A lawyer can help you locate your ex, bring your claim with the correct county courts, and pursue the full amount of unpaid child support owed to you. Some counties, including Riverside County, will even publicly shame ex-spouses who fail to pay child support by posting their photos online. Contact our office today to speak about your unpaid child support claim today.