Denise Motter was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Oregon. She returned to Southern California to attend California State University at Long Beach, receiving a Bachelor's degree in psychology. After college, she pursued a career in accounting, passing the Certified Public Accountant's Examination and practicing as a Revenue Agent/Tax Auditor for the Internal Revenue Service for ten years.
Changing careers, Commissioner Motter joined the District Attorney -- Family Support Division while attending Santa Barbara College of Law at night, securing her Juris Doctorate degree in 1992. Thereafter, she practiced family law in the private sector for eleven years, becoming a Certified Family Law Specialist in 2002, serving as president or treasurer for the Northern Santa Barbara County Bar Association for twelve years, and becoming a Partner in the Santa Maria firm of Kirk & Simas. In 2006, she was appointed as the Family Law Facilitator for Northern Santa Barbara County and then as Family Court Commissioner in 2010, filing the position previously held by Judge Colleen Sterne.