In Family Law, We Have Done It All

McIlwain, Carena C.

Carena C. McIlwain



Seattle, Washington



American Institute of Family Law Attorneys 10 Best Attorney | Carena C McIlwain, 10 Best Washington
Wall plaque: American Association for Justice | Top 100 Lawyers | Carena C McIlwain
10 Best, Client Satisfaction, American Institute of Family Law Attorneys, 2 Years
Expert Network Distinguished Lawyer | Carena C McIlwain
AAML | American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Upon graduating from law school in June 1993, I fancied myself practicing business law – sitting in a room with documents working on forming iron clad deals/contracts, figuring out potential loop holes and closing them.  I never saw myself in a courtroom. While I studied for the bar exam in Philadelphia, I went back to work for the civil litigation firm where I worked as a paralegal prior to law school. I was thrown into the courtroom and never even looked for a job in contract work. There I stayed, a Philadelphia trial attorney, until the shine wore off of civil litigation in 1999. As time went on, I became less fulfilled in this area of law. I thought about a move back home to North Carolina where I became licensed in 1999; but that was not to be. Fate decided it would be the Pacific Northwest for me. In 1999, I moved to Seattle and became licensed to practice in June 2000. Family law has been my steady diet ever since.

I didn’t choose family law; family law chose me. After moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was exploring various areas of the law when I landed in the offices of Anderson, Fields & McIlwain, Inc., P.S., P.S.. After meeting Wolfgang Anderson and shadowing him for 30 days, I was hooked.

Dissolution and/or parenting issues can be extremely difficult for the litigants involved and even more so for the children of the parties. When issues of domestic violence or substance abuse are added to the equation, this process can easily become overwhelming. That’s where I come in. I walk with my clients through the process each step of the way. We decide together what the goals are and how we are going to get there. Clients have a significant role in the process – after all, it is their life. However, it is my burden as well. As we walk through the process together, it is my hope that their load is lighter because we are sharing it. I have been working in the legal arena since I was 18 in various areas of the law (e.g., probate, estate, small claims, civil litigation involving medical malpractice, civil rights, breach of contract, personal injury, etc.). Family law has indeed been the most rewarding.

I handle dissolution actions with or without children, relocation actions, modification actions, parentage actions, third party custody actions, complex and high asset dissolutions and domestic violence petitions. My approach is generally to chart a path to the end of this process with the least amount of acrimony while serving my client’s best interests in light of the prevailing statutes and caselaw. This can be achieved if everyone has the same goals. Oftentimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I can be counted on to be a strong litigator for my client throughout the process even into trial, if that becomes necessary.

Because everyone that needs an attorney cannot afford one, I also volunteer at the neighborhood Legal Clinic, at the Family Law Information Center and on the Status Conference Calendar.

I love what I do. I really enjoy working with people and making a difference in someone’s life as they  deal with one of their most challenging times. Above all, I love justice. I can be counted on to fight for justice every time.

Areas Of Practice

  • Family

Bar Admissions

  • Pennsylvania, 1994
  • North Carolina, 1999
  • Washington, 2000
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1996


  • University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    • J.D. - 1993
  • Pennsylvania State University, PA
    • B.S. - 1987
    • Major: Public Policy/Law & Justice

Honors and Awards

  • Top 100 Lawyers, The National Advocates
  • Expert Network Distinguished Lawyer
  • 10 Best Attorneys-Exceptional and Outstanding Client Satisfaction, American Institute of Family Law Attorneys

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Washington State Bar, Member
  • North Carolina State Bar, Member
  • Pennsylvania State Bar Association, Member
  • American Bar Association, Member, 1994 to 2000
  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Member
  • Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Member
  • Domestic Relations Attorneys of Washington, Member

Pro Bono Activities

  • Legal Clinic, Volunteer
  • Family Law Information Center, Volunteer
  • Status Conference Calendar, Volunteer