Meet Our Family Law Attorneys
- Amanda DuBois
- Monica Kaup Cary
- Lucia Ramirez Levias
- Denise Hansen
- Joeana Catarata Hawes
- Michelle Fontenot
Owner and Partner, Amanda DuBois
Pacific Lutheran University – B.S.N., 1978
University of Puget Sound (Seattle University) – J.D., 1986
About fifteen years ago, I started my own family law firm. I envisioned a place where individuals going through the de-coupling process could feel empowered though education and understanding. I am really proud to say that our family law and estate planning offices in Seattle and Bellevue are exactly what I had in mind all those years ago. Our firm practices exclusively in family law and estate planning and I have managed to find amazing lawyers who have backgrounds in human services or finance. So, in addition to being smart, strong advocates, the lawyers here are warm, compassionate, financially savvy, and most importantly, family focused.
As the owner of a law firm, and a parent myself, I particularly enjoy working with business owners and busy professionals. I am continually amazed by my clients’ ability to keep up with the demands of their professions while at the same time prioritizing their responsibilities as a mother or father. That kind of juggling act is extremely difficult within the context of a divorce. I fully understand the demands on the busy schedules of these individuals and work hard with my team to structure the legal process around our clients’ family and business obligations. Our time together must be efficient and packed with information. And after-hours availability is a must. All of my team and most of our experts are available long after five o’clock during the week and on weekends for check-in emails, texts, calls, or meetings when necessary.
Here’s a little bit about me and why I like family law. Prior to becoming an attorney, I was a high-risk labor and delivery nurse at the University of Washington Medical Center here in Seattle. And I find that helping people go through the divorce transition actually empowers people.
Although it sounds a little crazy, there are some remarkable similarities between labor and delivery and the divorce process. In both situations, people are frightened at being in a situation over which they feel they have no control – in a divorce, they could lose their children, their financial security or their business. Divorce takes one on a course of action that typically can’t be stopped (just like labor), and anyone who has been divorced can tell you that they had to dig deep and find a way to make it through the often ugly legal process. The big difference is that when someone is in labor, they know they will end up with a cute little baby. In a divorce, what most people can’t see is that at the end of the process they will end up with a great new life. But they do. Trust me: I’ve seen it happen over and over.
Throughout the years, I have discovered that my nursing background gives me a unique perspective that helps me support divorcing individuals as they deal with the unimaginable stress of the legal system. It’s also helped me to become pretty good at analyzing complex situations and coming up with a workable plan of action.
I have settled and taken many cases to trial that have involved valuing a business, or determining the character of a business as separate or community property. I am happy to report that many of my clients have become friends and I have watched with pride as their businesses have skyrocketed after making it through the complicated, and often scary, legal process.
I handle both amicable and complex family law matters, and while I strongly believe that amicable resolution is best, I do regularly take particularly challenging cases to trial. My experience as a trial lawyer and as a former member of the Board of Governors of the Washington State Association for Justice has provided me with helpful litigation strategy and trial skills.
As for my credentials, I received my Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Pacific Lutheran University and my law degree from Seattle University back when it was University of Puget Sound School of Law. I served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), where I co-founded the Women’s Section, and served as chair of the Family Law Section. I also served on WSAJ’s Continuing Legal Education Committee and the Legislative Steering Committee. I have been a featured speaker and a chairperson at numerous continuing education seminars for attorneys, nurses and mental health professionals.
In addition to my legal practice, my partner Monica Cary and I host a monthly radio show on Chat with Women Network on KKNW 1150 AM radio. It’s called Lawyers With Heart, and we interview guests and provide general legal information about divorce and estate planning. We have audio files here on our web site. One way to get some really good information about the divorce process is to listen to our archived shows.
Because I believe that legal information should be available to everyone, I authored a book series called Civil Survival that teaches basic legal rights and responsibilities to ordinary people – check it out at Amazon.com. Instructors at community colleges use Civil Survival to help teach English and legal skills, and ordinary folks purchase individual titles in order to educate themselves about everyday legal issues. I am most proud of being able to donate copies of the books to nonprofit organizations like The Post Prison Education Program and WWISH, a program for women who are incarcerated. If you have a favorite organization that might benefit from the Civil Survival book series, please feel free to contact me. I have also developed an educational curriculum called LawClass, an in-depth exploration of basic legal issues that’s designed for high school, college and individual online education.
As a strong believer in giving back to my community, I am past President of the Board at The Women’s Funding Alliance, the largest funder of programs for women and girls in Washington State. I formerly served on the Advisory Board for Teamworks Academy founded by former Seahawk Mack Strong and his wife Zoe Higheagle Strong as well as the Boards of numerous professional and civic organizations, including The Stevens Hospital Foundation and The Center for Spiritual Living. And I was one of the founding members of The Shoreline Public Schools Foundation. Lastly, I’m a fervent supporter of Peace Trees Vietnam, a landmine removal project in Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam.
My husband Philip DuBois recently retired from his busy OB-GYN practice at Swedish Hospital – and then promptly went back to work one day a week at a menopause and sexuality clinic – which is perfect for him since he is writing a book for men about intimacy and sex in menopause! (Stay tuned for more info on that!) Philip and I have two fabulous adult daughters and a very special Australian Labradoodle named Avi. For fun, we spend time at our cabin in the San Juan Islands where we cook and entertain after enjoying time walking in the woods or beachcombing.
Partner, Monica Kaup Cary
B.A., Government/Women’s Studies, Franklin & Marshall College
J.D., Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College
People often ask me, sometimes benevolently, “Why on earth did you choose family law?” It’s a fair question. The answer is that I believe that families come in all different forms and that the familial lines of demarcation are mutable. The American freedom to reinvent oneself has long been particularly alluring to me because I believe it to be one of the greatest freedoms we have in the United States.
This freedom to start over can be difficult in the family law context. The mix of the spiritual and the legal bonds of matrimony, state-imposed obligations, the illiquidity of property, market fluctuations, health insurance costs, unemployment, and children can all make the prospect of starting over spiral into a very scary undertaking.
If, and when, that moment of certainty that the marriage is over strikes you and you decide to seek legal counsel, my goal is to help you as a client by offering steady guidance and respectfully prioritizing needs and goals. There are aspects to ending a marriage that have to be treated as a ‘strictly business’ proposition, but some aspects of the process must be approached with more heart and compassion. I keep my clients informed about the process, provide realistic expectations, and creatively brainstorm solutions. I want my clients to finish the family law process with dignity and a sense of a new life ahead.
My parents were immigrants who had an arranged marriage and raised their children in a homogenous suburb in the Midwest. Most families I encountered as a child were traditional; with a “stay at home” mom and a “working” dad. But times have changed, families have changed, and in my practice I’ve come to know wonderful families from all walks of life, and truly enjoy working with the issues specific to contemporary families in Washington state.
I currently serve as a Pro Tem Commissioner with King County Superior Court and I also serve as a Volunteer Settlement Conference mediator.
My legal career began in Oregon where I worked in criminal defense, complex tort litigation, and as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Elizabeth Welch, Presiding Family Court Judge in Portland, Oregon. In Washington, I volunteered with the King County Prosecutor’s office and then was a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Pierce County, Washington until I turned my focus again to family law. My continuing legal education training includes rigorous mediation training, the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) training, and the Guardian ad Litem training.
Prior to attending law school, I worked as a volunteer with VISTA (the domestic Peace Corps) in Seattle with FamilyWorks, a food bank and family resource center that serves families north of I-5 and east of the ship canal. During my year of service, I connected food bank customers with employment resources, recruited volunteers to lead free workshops for children and assisted in facilitating free workshops for adults on topics from cooking to intercultural parenting. FamilyWorks still offers free parenting classes.
Attorney, Lucia Ramirez Levias
J.D., cum laude – Seattle University School of Law
I decided to go to law school after an eight-year career in the non-profit sector where I championed causes for youth and children. My job was part counselor, part community organizer, part fundraiser, and part manager. I wore a lot of hats. I loved developing cutting edge community programs and then helping the families and children that participated in the programs. As I took on more responsibility with fundraising and management, I found myself moving away from the people that I so enjoyed serving every day. I also felt limited in my ability to help families who were struggling with financial and legal problems.
That’s when I decided to go to law school. And family law was an absolutely perfect fit. I can have a very close relationship with my clients while at the same time working within the extensive court system. It is not uncommon for me to spend my morning advising a client about a child who is struggling with transitioning from house to house and then spend my afternoon arguing in court about the application of the relocation statute. I deeply enjoy both the very intimate and very public aspects of being a family law attorney.
As a lawyer, I don’t solely rely on my legal expertise when advising clients. I am also a mom of two young children, a product of a family impacted by divorce, and a former youth development professional. Sometimes, clients just need to vent, discuss options, or get ideas. I have that covered. Plus, I can tell you whether or not your ideas will fly in a court of law, which, of course is why you hired me.
Attorney, Denise Johnson
Tulane University, J.D.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, B.S.
I was born and raised outside of Chicago. I earned a degree in Finance from the University of Illinois and worked in Chicago as an auditor and then a financial analyst before deciding to attend law school. I attended Tulane University for law school. Internships while in law school included working at the Cook County Criminal Court in Chicago and with the Northwest Justice Project in Seattle. After graduating from law school, I worked at the King County Superior Court for the Honorable Judge Julie Spector.
I am a huge sports fan, and foolishly will always root for the Cubs, Bears, and the Illini. I’m obsessed with music; I have been playing piano since I was four and also play the saxophone. I annoyingly sing all the time. After living in New Orleans while attending Tulane, I’m an avid supporter of any and all things supporting the rebuilding of New Orleans. My favorite activity outside of the office is spending time with my daughter and my husband. I live with my husband, our daughter, and our four fur-babies (3 cats and pitbull mix).
Attorney, Joeana Catarata Hawes
University of Washington School of Law – J.D.
Seattle University – B.A.
I was born in the Philippines and came to the United States when I was twelve years old. I have always wanted to serve as a role model for other immigrant women and minorities and open as many doors for others as were opened for me.
I attended the University of Washington School of Law. At the UW I was active with the Student Bar Association. I also interned with the King County Prosecutor’s Office at the Maleng Justice Center and with the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office through graduation. At Pierce County, I had the opportunity to argue criminal appellate cases before Division Two of the Washington State Court of Appeals, and to be first chair in misdemeanor trials during the summer. After graduation I moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where I clerked with the Honorable John S.W. Lim of the Hawaii State Intermediate Court of Appeals. Then I joined the City and County of Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office as a deputy prosecuting attorney and practiced criminal law, including an assignment in the Career Criminal Unit where I prosecuted sex crimes, some cases involving child victims.
I moved back to Seattle and started practicing family law in 2006 with a veteran family law attorney. I became the senior associate and handled almost everything for the solo practitioner with whom I practiced. I came to work for the DuBois Cary Law Group in 2012. In support of our external and internal clients, I have taken on the hybrid role of Associate Attorney and Business Manager.
My husband and I are big football fans and support the Huskies and the Seahawks. We have two adorable cats, George and JoJo. We love to travel and explore new places. During my spare time I enjoy taking pictures, creating photobooks, and spending time with friends. On occasion, I get involved in artistic projects for friends and family. We support a number of charities including the American Cancer Society and the ALS Foundation.
Attorney, Michelle Fontenot
University of Texas – M.Ed.
University of Texas – B.A.
Prior to attending law school, I earned a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and a B.A. in history from the University of Texas. For over fifteen years, I worked as a licensed mental health therapist in schools serving children who qualified for special education due to emotional and behavioral disabilities. These children are the ones who challenge authority and are typically the toughest to teach. I went to law school with the hope that I would be able to use the knowledge I had as a counselor to help children and families in other settings.
I attended the evening program at Seattle University School of Law, and continued to work full-time as a mental health specialist for Kent School District.
Most recently, I was the program attorney for Family Law CASA of King County. Family Law CASA is a non-profit that provides court-appointed, volunteer guardian ad litem services in low-income family law cases. The role of the agency is to protect the needs of children in family law disputes. My role at the agency was to represent both the program and the volunteer assigned to the case in court. Often during divorce proceedings, the needs of the children are easily diluted in the face of the better articulated needs of their parents. My job was to ensure that the focus of the case remained on the best interests of those children. As part of that process, I encouraged parents, even in dire situations, to better see and acknowledge the needs, and best interests, of their children.
My experience in court and at family law mediations gives me a real and practical understanding of how to effectively represent clients in the divorce process. This experience guides my work with my clients, allowing me to translate the often foreign legal process into understandable steps. I listen to what my clients say about what they need, and about their fears and concerns. work with them to develop a plan to navigate the legal process in order to create a positive outcome for them and their families. By carefully listening to my clients and providing them with thorough information and preparation, I help them to feel knowledgeable and empowered, and the often painful process of moving out of a marriage or partnership is made easier and more successful. I live with my partner and our two dogs, Ellie and Gumbo. Ellie is a service dog who works at the King County Prosecutor’s Office helping children who have to talk with the child interviewer. When I’m not at work, I volunteer in pro bono legal clinics for Qlaw and the Spanish Legal Clinic at El Centro de la Raza. I spend much of my down time both playing and watching soccer. My passions are gardening, food, and travel.
If you have further questions or want to arrange a confidential consultation, please contact us today. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue and can meet with you in one or both of those locations as needed. We look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve the solutions you seek.