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By Rima Abdelkader and David K. Li
A Californian woman won a $ 150,000 residency allowance from her former husband, nearly 50 years after he had skipped the family, she said and her lawyer on Wednesday.
Toni Anderson, 73, a retired interior designer from Carlsbad in northern San Diego County, said she traveled her daughter, now 52, since she was a toddler after her husband, Donald Alan Lenhart, left them.
Anderson said Lenhart moved to Canada and tried not to send any payments despite a court order.
The woman said she worked two jobs as a single parent and took birth stamps to make ends meet. So many years later, she said it was her that Lenhart still owes all that child allowance.
Anderson had a hunch Lenhart could be back in the US. So she took her original 1970 order for child support and appeared in the San Diego County Child Support Services office where federal tax records laid Lenhart in Oregon, her lawyer said.
He was served with orders to appear before the court – and he did.
"I don't expect him to show up," Anderson told NBC News. "I was really shocked to see him."
Lenhart was not obliged to attend the hearing last week and could have allowed his lawyer to handle the whole case, lawyers said on both sides.
"He (Lenhart) must have resembled a ghost to her (Anderson)," said Anderson's lawyer Sara Yunus.
Anderson asked him why he appeared, and his answer surprised her.
"Because I have to come and ask for your forgiveness," Anderson said, and said to him, "We had tears in our eyes."
The main amount Lenhart owed was $ 35,000, amounting to $ 160,000 with interest and penalties, according to lawyers on both sides. They settled for $ 150,000 and Lenhart has two years to pay it.
"It was just a big time closing for both of us," Anderson said. "Forgiveness was great on both."
Lenhart did not pay child support these years, believing that he and his wife had made a fair deal in 1970, releasing him to make any payments, said the man's lawyer on Wednesday.
"I was happy to pay Mrs Anderson the child support due, and I only wish her the best in the future," Lenhart said in a statement issued by his lawyer. "I hired a private investigator to find her so that I could offer her payment. I am delighted that we could reach agreement."
The daughter Lane Lenhart, also an interior designer, said she was moved by the social media reaction from single parents to her mother's residence, as the news of her family's case came to light.
"Since Mother has said it all in the world, there have been comments for comments from people who are working immediately," said Lane Lenhart. "The overall consensus is that there are many people out there, women dealing with this, and they don't know what to do."