The Center for Family Law

Cynthia Garnholz - Attorney

Inquiry? Information & Forms

I have over thirty years of experience in helping people resolve a broad range of legal issues, including family law, estate planning and probate matters.  For 15 of my years in practice, I have served as a part-time judge.  Further, I am proud to have received from Martindale-Hubbell, a rating of AV® Preeminent, the highest possible peer review rating for ethical standards and legal ability.
It is my job and, indeed, my pleasure to get to know you and understand the issues which bring you to my office.  Beginning at our very first meeting, I will listen to you, we will together identify your needs and goals, and I will then help and guide you through the legal process.  As an experienced trial lawyer, I understand that a trial may be the best choice to resolve your legal issues and I am ready to aggressively represent your interests in court and at trial.    
Litigation can be very stressful for clients and their families, so we will discuss methods, other than litigation, by which your case might be resolved.  I am a strong believer in what lawyers call “alternative dispute resolution” methods.  If I think your case could be resolved collaboratively or through mediation, rather than litigation, we will talk about and evaluate those processes, as well.
I encourage my clients to ask questions about anything that they don’t understand or which causes them concern.  I and my staff strive to be available to hear your questions and then promptly deliver answers.  It is our goal to provide you with prompt and efficient attention, excellent service, and sound advice based on many years of experience.  If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs, probate, or family law matters of any kind, please call on us.  We would welcome the opportunity to assist you.


            Clients’ most urgent concern when confronting divorce is often child custody. It’s important to understand custody so that you can decide what arrangement is best for your children.

            Under Missouri law there are two types of custody: legal and physical.  Legal custody refers to who makes the decisions about the child’s welfare and development.  This includes decision-making about such questions as religious education or whether and where a child will attend summer camp. Physical custody refers, of course, to where and in which household the children will be physically present at specific times.

            Either type of custody can be “sole” to one parent or “joint” (shared) by both parents.  If a couple has joint legal custody they must confer, discuss and agree about all issues relating to the child’s wellbeing before decisions are implemented.  Joint legal custody is usually appropriate where the parents are able to communicate with one another.  Judges will often give the parents a chance, at least at the time of divorce, to try to demonstrate that they can make decisions together regarding the welfare of their children.

When parents are unable to have a reasonable discussion with one another, a judge may award sole legal custody to one parent.  The parent who is awarded sole legal custody of a child is usually still expected to confer and discuss with the other parent about issues pertaining to the children before making and implementing a final decision.  Sometimes, especially when there is a lot of ill will between the parents, those discussions will be ordered to occur only by email or text.

Joint physical custody usually means that each parent has substantial, but not necessarily 50-50, parenting time with the children. The schedule can be set up so that each parent has parenting time for a full week (week on/week off).  Especially with younger children, exchanges of the children may occur much more frequently – even on an every other day basis.  A 2-2-5 schedule is also possible where, for example, one parent has every Monday and Tuesday, the other has every Wednesday and Thursday, with weekends alternating between them.  Contact between the parents can be minimized where necessary by having the parents drop off and pick up the children at daycare or school. 

When a parent is awarded sole physical custody, he or she has all or most of the parenting time with the children.  This may occur when one parent is impaired in some way and is unable to manage substantial parenting time.

If you are worried about child custody issues, call me to schedule a consultation where we can discuss your family’s specific situation.

Professional Commitment:

I am a frequent speaker at seminars for lawyers and am active in several bar associations: 
  • Missouri Bar Association; Probate and Trust Law Committee and Family Law Section
  • Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis; Chair of Family Law Section and Member, Board of Governors
  • St. Louis County Bar Association
  • International Association of Collaborative Professionals
  • Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
  • Collaborative Family Law Association (CFLA) - founding and former board member
Additionally, I regularly serve as Guardian ad Litem for children in the St. Louis County and City of St. Louis Family Courts. 

I also believe it is important to serve our community:   

     •  Member of Executive Board, Municipal League of Metro St.

         Louis -  2015 to 2017

  • Alderman, City of Clayton – 2007 to 2017
  • Provisional Judge, St. Louis County Municipal Court – 2007 to present
  • Member and Aldermanic Representative to Clayton Parks and Recreation Commission, 2014 to 2017
  • Former Board member: Clayton Century Foundation, 2010 to 2012; Clayton Plan Commission and Architectural Review Board, 2012-2014
  • Provisional Judge, City of Clayton Municipal Court - 1998-2007


  • Fontbonne University (B.A./B.S. 1976, cum laude)
  • Washington University School of Law (J.D. 1980)
  • Licensed to practice law in the State of Missouri since 1980


St. Louis, Missouri

10.0Cynthia Garnholz

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