On behalf of The Law Office of Gustavo E. Frances, P.A.
In a story that was a half-century in the making, one woman in California is finally getting the child support she is owed—it’s just 50 years later. Dead-beat parents are nothing new. As long as there have been people divorcing, there have been parents trying to dodge their obligations to support their children. The same type of dead-beat parents that are seen in 2019 was also around back in 1970 when Toni and Don Lenhert untied the knot.
The couple married in 1966, entering into a union that lasted just two years. A child was born on that union—a daughter named Lane. After being separated for a time, the Lenherts divorced in 1970, and the court ordered Don to pay his newly minted ex-wife Toni monthly payments of $210 per month for the first 30 months. After that, the payment was scheduled to drop to $160 a month until Lane reached the age of majority, 18. Payments were to commence on January 1, 1971. But it never happened.
Don Lenhert wrote a cold check to his ex-wife for his first support payment and then promptly tucked tail and ran—to Canada. There, he fathered two more children, completely disappearing from his first daughter’s life.
Toni, who reclaimed her maiden name of Anderson, found work as an interior designer, but described her life with her daughter as that of a typical single mother, living “paycheck to paycheck.” With her mother working long hours to scrape by, Lane says that she had to raise herself as a result. She also developed “a lot of abandonment issues.”
Fast forward 50 years. A full five decades. $30,000 in unpaid support stacks up.
In 2018, Toni came to realize that in the state of California, there is no statute of limitations on the collection of child support payments. She tracked down her ex using Google, and to her surprise, he was living “what appeared to be a financially sound life in Oregon, with a big house and a boat.” Toni sprang into action, filing a motion to ask the court to collect her unpaid support. Just last month, a judge granted her request.
With interest added over the course of 50 years, Toni is slated to receive $150,000 from her ex, beginning with a large lump sum and followed by monthly payments.
If this case does nothing else, it should serve as an inspiration to parents who are having trouble collecting support for their children. The state of Florida has no statute of limitations on collection of back support, so this same scenario could easily play out here. Parents who don’t pay as ordered also face penalties such as suspension of driving, business and recreational licenses, confiscation of tax refunds and lottery winnings, liens on their property, credit notations on their credit reports, and inability to renew a passport. That’s not to mention being thrown in jail and fined.