Even when parents split on amicable terms, and both have a good relationship with their children, one thing that can cause major drama between ex-partners is child support payments - or the lack thereof.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, less than half (43%) of all parents received the full amount of child support they were due that year. In fact, in a startling report from 2012, CNN stated that over $100 billion was owed in unpaid child support — with half of that being owed to parents raising children on public assistance.
For poor mothers, child support payments make up nearly half of their total income. In other words, missing child support payments are a big reason why single-mother homes often fall below the poverty line.
Recently, a 74-year-old mother named Toni Anderson decided to take a stand, suing her ex nearly 50 years after their divorce and winning $150,000 in owed child support.
Anderson and her ex-husband Donald Lenhart separated in 1968, culminating in an official divorce in 1970. Around this time, Anderson claims Lenhart fled to Canada to avoid paying his monthly, $200 child support payments.
At the time, Anderson was more concerned with raising her then-two-year-old daughter than engaging her ex in a lengthy and stressful court battle. Alone, she made a successful career as an interior designer, even managed to send her daughter to college in Paris. However, after her retirement, she started to think about the past, and realized that there was unfinished business.
In an interview with Inside Edition, she said: “Now that I’m older and retired, it came to me that I deserve this money.”
But she says that it wasn't down to greed that she decided to pursue the case all these years later:
“It was totally on principle. The money was one thing but I started realizing that we are letting deadbeat dads get away with too much,” she told CTV News.
After consulting legal experts, Anderson realized that in the state of California, where her support order was handed down, there is no statute of limitations on child support. After doing a little research and discovering her ex had relocated to Oregon, she started looking for a lawyer to take on her case.
At first, attorney Sara Yunus was apprehensive about taking on the case. However, after taking a closer look at the original court order, she decided to help. In an interview with Inside Edition, Yunus said:
“The law allows her to do this.” She added: “I thought she was brilliant. I thought she was great for doing this.”
When Anderson had her day in court this past February, the judge ordered her ex to pay the $35,000 in child support owed— along with a whopping $120,000 in interest.
As you can imagine, he was pretty shocked by decision— however, if his statement is any indication, he seems to have matured over all these years. In a statement via his attorney, he said:
“I was glad to pay Ms. Anderson the child support that was owed and I wish her only the best in the future.”
According to reports, Anderson’s daughter Lane is proud of her mother for “standing up for herself”, and Anderson herself hopes that her story can be an inspiration for other mothers out there.