The Common Law

Child Support – How Much Will I Pay?

It looks like I am going to get a divorce. I've got one daughter, but my soon-to-be ex-wife will have custody after the divorce. How much will I have to pay in child support?

You and the mother will have the opportunity to reach an agreement on how much child support you should pay. Assuming, however, that you and the mother are unable to reach an agreement on child support, a court would hear the case and decide how much child support should be paid.

Texas has created guidelines to be used by courts when calculating the amount a noncustodial parent (i.e., the parent who does not have primary custody) should pay for child support. The guidelines work on a sliding scale, depending on the number of children that the noncustodial parent needs to support.

Under Texas law, if the noncustodial parent's net monthly income is less than $6,000, the amount paid for child support would be the following percentage of the monthly income:

20% for one child,

25% for two children,

30% for three children,

35% for four children,

40% for five children,

not less than 40% for six children.

So using your case as an example, if we assume you have a net income of $5,000 per month, and we apply standard Texas guidelines, the amount of monthly child support owed would be $1,000. Keep in mind that some special rules may apply in cases of split or joint placement or multiple children in different households or when net income exceeds $6,000 per month.

In addition, courts will base child support on the noncustodial parent's earning potential if he or she is not making as much money as he or she could. So if the noncustodial parent were an investment banker who decided to quit and take a job that paid only a fraction of his or her banker's salary, the court will use the income that he or she could potentially earn (the banker's salary) to determine the adequate amount of monthly child support payments.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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