CEO & Founding Attorney
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CEO & Founding Attorney
Michelle T. Dellino is the CEO and Founding Attorney of Dellino Family Law Group. The firm was founded by her and on her belief that there is, very simply, a solution to every problem. Her personal practice focuses on complex family law matters including high conflict cases, high asset dissolution, long-term marriage dissolution, cases involving business owners, IT, and medical professionals; domestic violence family law, and drafting agreements to help people avoid having to litigate these issues later. Both a trained mediator and former criminal trial attorney, she has the skills and experience to take a case anywhere it needs to go, whether that is a creative settlement or intensive courtroom litigation. As CEO and founding attorney, she is visionary of Dellino Family Law Group, manages the firm’s development and strategic practices, and leads the firm’s leadership team.
Who I Am
I am an attorney but also a human being. I have four dogs — and a longterm Sunday routine of trying to read the New York Times before they do their best to lie flat across the travel section. I have largely given up caffeine and start every day with 40 oz. of this tea. I love the Oxford comma, one space after a period, and loathe the appearance of contractions in writing — so you will not see them in mine unless it reflects a quotation. I love the sound of rain on my sliding glass doors and misty Seattle days, but I never miss a chance to escape to warm climates. If you are reading my biography page it is either because you: a) need a lawyer; b) are a client; c) are a fellow attorney and want to get to know me better/find out who I am (reach out – let’s have coffee); d) are someone looking for any information you can possibly obtain to use against me (and my clients); or e) you are a random visitor. Welcome to all of you.
One of the best moments came early in my career. It was not a trial or a hearing. It was a routine morning in the hallway of a courthouse in Tacoma after a hearing with a client in her early-20s and her mother in tow. My client walked ahead of us on the way out of the courthouse staring at her phone. Her mother was walking along side me. She shook her head, looked completely defeated, said she did not know if her daughter would ever get herself together before something worse happened and wondered what she did wrong. She said something like, “you can’t be much older than her (I was), and I am sure your mother is very proud of you.” I told her that my mom is proud of me and I talk to her at least every few days, but when I was her daughter’s age I had already dropped out of high school, ran away from home, been arrested in my youth, let my parents (who did everything right) down more than a few times, and would fall down a few more times before I decided to get back up and be a better version of myself. I told her I was not worried about her daughter, that we had spoken about her plans – and that I knew her daughter would be more than okay, that she had plenty of time to figure it out. It was the truth. She wiped away a tear and smiled for the first time all day. She then picked up the pace, took her daughter’s hand, and hugged her. This remains one of the best moments for me. That client is now a first-grade teacher. She figured it all out. She was okay. I am okay. You will be okay, too.
Why I Do This Work
When we have the chance to meet, I will likely tell you that I believe people are resilient and should not be defined by their worst relationships or moments. I mean it. Like you may have, I have experienced tumultuous periods in my life. Have you been through a horrible breakup? Have you been divorced or are you thinking about it? Have you been uncertain about what to do financially, career wise, emotionally? I have been there too. I have been through a divorce. I have been scared of the unknown, like you may be. I was diagnosed with cancer at 25 while I was living 3000 miles from my family. To be accurate, I was misdiagnosed and that resulted in having my cancer recur a few more times before people much wiser than me finally found a way to get rid of it. Since being forced to repeatedly face my own mortality and then surviving, not much can scare or overwhelm me. Sometimes I feel invincible in a way that means no matter how much pain or difficulty I may have to experience, I know I will come through and win. I have started over many times when I did not want to. A lot has happened. All of those life experiences are what led me to be in a position to get to work with people in difficult times and why I am one of the very best at what I do. I am still here to do this work. All of those ups and down are why I started this firm and put together a team of people with hearts bigger than anyone I know who do not rest until they know they have done everything they can to help those we advocate for.
If something had not happened at a few different turns for me along the way, I might not be here. Maybe you can say the same. If so, I am glad we are both here. There is probably a something in your life. You may be ready to tell your comeback story. You might be in the middle of it right now. If you want to tell me your story and have a problem that needs to be solved, I am ready to listen and help. The best day for me is when I can sit down with you, hear your story, and help get you where you want to be.
My Background and Education
After foregoing traditional high school, I decided to complete my secondary school education and get college credit at Portland Community College. After that, I had some tough jobs before I went on to higher education. I managed a Starbucks store in downtown Seattle, was a top sales performer for Verizon Wireless and the former US West/Qwest Communications, had an extensive paper route covering two counties, and even sold burial plots. These jobs taught me how to do what it takes to get the job done, no matter the task. I firmly believe there is nothing I cannot do – and nothing you cannot do.
Eventually I decided I needed to go back to school and immersed myself in reading everything I could get my hands on while completing undergraduate programs at New York University and Seattle University, earning degrees in Politics and Philosophy. My favorite philosophers are Jean Paul Sartre and Immanuel Kant. Studying Philosophy and the professors I had doing so changed my life. If I had not been an attorney, I would likely be teaching philosophical approaches to the self somewhere. I went on to get my law degree with honors from Seattle University School of Law, completing focus areas in both family and criminal law. While in law school, I interned for a large public defender agency, getting to do my first jury trials and finding I loved the courtroom all before graduating. Following law school, while working full time, I completed a Certificate in Law & Technology from the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University and a Masters degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, also from Arizona State University. While studying in residence at ASU, I also acted as a graduate teaching assistant, instructing undergraduate students.
Before private practice, I worked as a public defender and then as a staff attorney for Kitsap County Superior Court, a busy trial court, supporting four Superior Court judges. Working for the court was an invaluable experience that gave me perspective early in my career that I would not trade for any other legal experience. Amongst other things, I learned a lot of what not to do and how to best position arguments. Later I worked for other local private firms gaining extensive experience handling family law and criminal cases before starting Dellino Family Law Group. Handling thousands of cases, I have appeared in courts all over Washington and have successfully tried cases in front of juries and conducted bench trials. It did not take long to realize that my background in criminal defense, coupled with my life experience, made me an incredibly fearless family law attorney with a focus on strategy and goal setting in an effective manner that is unique and highly effective. Family law is about compassion, details, strategy and humanity all at once. No one can put that together the way I can.
I was born and raised in Seattle, the oldest of three children and the child of two lifelong educators. My parents are also native Seattleites — and my heroes. Most of my immediate and large extended family live here. I care about this community and believe in giving back to make it better. I serve as a volunteer attorney for King County Bar Association’s Family Law Neighborhood Legal Clinic. I am also involved with various animal rescue groups and community organizations.
When I am not working, things I enjoy include spending time with my family, wrangling four dogs (three dachshunds and one big dog) and two rescue cats, plotting how many more animals I can make room for, researching new technology, watching baseball (especially the Yankees), exercising at Roundbox Fitness, and traveling as often as I can. I love the desert, the Big Island of Hawai’i, sports, competition of all kinds, being outside, and cooking when I have time. I dislike passive aggression and apathy. Sometimes I need to disconnect, but I will do my best to be available if you need me or make sure that someone else is. I have been known to talk my clients or team while I am in a boat, on the other side of the world, on the side of a cliff, or any number of other places where I can still get a cellular signal.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about me. However, trust me when I tell you that I am more interested in hearing your story than telling mine.