Did you know that written laws requiring parental support date back to over 2,000 years before the birth of Christ? The ancient Sumerian Code of Lipit-Ishtar, who was the fifth king of Isin, a city in Mesopotamia, circa 1868–1857 B.C., required support to be paid to the mother of a child born out of wedlock in the form of “grain, oil and clothing,” and further provided that the child was an heir at law of his or her biological father (Robbins, Sara. Law: A Treasury of Art and Literature, 1990, pp. 11–19). Some may argue that this code provides palimony. Others may argue that it provides child support. Either way, Lipit-Ishtar appears in history as innovative given his place in time.
We have come a long way from the ancient Sumerian Code requiring the provision of basic necessities. In Massachusetts, now over 2,000 years after the birth of Christ, various facts including the income of each parent, the total available income of both parents, health insurance costs, childcare costs, the amount of time each parent has their scheduled parenting time (physical custody of the child), and other concerns relevant to a particular case are considered in determining what amount of child support should be paid by one parent to another, if any.
The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court Child Support Guidelines Task Force is responsible for a quadrennial review, as is required by applicable federal regulations (45 CFR § 302.56—should anyone reading this article yearn for a citation reference). That review commenced in the summer of 2020 and concluded with new Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines, dated August 2, 2021. These become effective in the Commonwealth as of October 4, 2021.
There is no official self-calculating worksheet yet available, though there is at least one unofficial calculator available by internet search. To officially determine what child support will be in a given case, one must do a manual calculation at this time; and, it’s complicated.
The biggest takeaway from the new and improved Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines is that the combined income of the two parents to which the guidelines apply, has increased from $250,000.00 to $400,000.00. That change should affect what, if any, alimony, is paid by one spouse to another in divorce cases because the upper threshold for income captured by the new Child Support Guidelines has increased by $150,000.00. This increase will also affect the child support calculations in cases where the parents have never been married to each other and where alimony is not a consideration simply because the guidelines apply to greater income levels.
There also appear to be some changes relating to the scope by which childcare costs are considered from these updated guidelines. But exactly what impact that will have, up or down, in a given situation, is a function of running the entire guidelines calculation in a particular case. Because of the complicated nature of a manual calculation and the scope of changes in these updated guidelines, added to the often emotionally-charged backdrop of either a divorce proceeding or issues of paternity, it is always advisable to seek skilled legal counsel. Our attorneys are exceptionally competent in advocating family law matters on behalf of our clients while placating a deteriorated communication climate.
The Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines from 2013 through 2021 are available at:
I do not see any evidence that Lipit-Ishtar, as ahead of his time as he may have been in promulgating legal requirements for parental support, performed any review and revisions of his child support laws—quadrennial or otherwise. Thus, we are left with only a fragment of his written code that contains what appears to be the first written, legal iteration in human history regarding parental support in the form of providing the bare necessities of life on behalf of their children.
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