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Divorce & Legal Separation

Divorce & Legal Separation

Couples separate and divorce for many different reasons and, regardless of the reason, complex issues over child custody, spousal/child support, and the just, fair and equitable division of assets and debts are always in play.   The process can be quick and easy or drawn out and complicated depending on the people involved and the experience of the attorneys assisting them.  With nearly thirty years of practice in divorce and family law in Vancouver, I bring valuable experience to the table to help guide my clients through these challenging times. Let me help you navigate these troubling times.

Call Me Today to Discuss Your Case.

Call  360-787-2424 to arrange your consultation or contact the firm online My office is conveniently located in downtown Vancouver right off I-5 at the Mill Plain Exit. 

What others say about Clayton Spencer

From the moment I hired Clayton, he has been and remains my steadfast advocate. Over the past five years, I have had three (two family and one criminal) cases, in all three courts (District, Superior, and Appellate) requiring his counsel and representation.

Custody, restraining orders, no-contact orders, family support, child support, community property, dividing assets and liabilities, conflict/resolution, motions, hearings… OH MY! Marital dis-entanglement and/or an adversarial divorce (however you put it) can be and IS emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting!

Clayton understands the sacred trust reposed in him, and he earns and keeps that trust with every email, phone call, and face-to-face. He is honest and forthwith, explaining the worst case scenario up front and delivering the best case scenario in the court room (if your case happens to go to trial).

Clayton will represent you and get you the BEST possible outcome –> regardless of your innocence or guilt. He knows his way around the courtroom and commands attention through his legal expertise AND experience, and his fluid communicative style. He has a PHENOMENAL courtroom presence! In fact, I would go to court (even when I wasn’t required to be there) and sit in the back just to watch him in action!

Facing legal challenges and the courts is NO place to be alone, as the outcome of ANY legal proceeding can have a serious impact on you for years to come. I highly recommend discussing your legal needs, issues, and/or questions with Clayton. You will NOT be disappointed!

Hands down, he is the best investment I have made in me – he is my lawyer for life!W.C, Vancouver, February 2016

Read more testimonials here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s involved in a divorce?  Washington is a “no fault” state, meaning that you don’t need to provide a specific reason for divorce or legal separation.  You need only declare that the marriage is irrevocably broken.  A “petition” for the dissolution of marriage lays out the essential elements of the marriage (e.g., where each party resides, the date of marriage, date of separation, identify of any children and a listing of assets and debts) and makes a formal request to dissolve the marriage.  This document is then delivered to the other spouse with a “summons” notifying the respondent of his/her need to answer the petition in court. If the parties are in agreement as to the petition, the case can be finalized 90 days after filing.  If there are disputes over any aspect of the divorce “temporary orders” can be obtained from the court to guide the conduct of the parties until the case can be resolved through settlement or, if needed,  trial.

if I can’t locate my spouse? If you cannot locate your spouse, the law requires you to file an “affidavit of due diligence” setting forth your good faith efforts to locate and then serve your spouse. Once the court is satisfied with your efforts to carry out “personal service,” it may entertain a motion for “service by publication” – something you often see in the “Legal Notices” section of your local newspaper.

Is there a residency requirement? You only need to be a Washington state resident on the day you petitioned for a divorce. However, a court has authority only over those persons and that property which is within its jurisdiction.  Jurisdiction over children requires their residence within the state for a period of not less than six months prior to the commencement of the action, in the absence of “emergency” circumstances. 

What is an uncontested divorce? In an uncontested divorce in Washington State, the parties have reached an agreement on all of the essential issues before filing the petition for marriage dissolution. The parties’ agreements are reflected in the petition, and the respondent executes a “joinder” indicating that they are in agreement with the terms and provisions outlined in the petition. A final decree of dissolution is then granted on those terms after the mandatory ninety day waiting period has run. 

if I opt for a legal separation can I change to a divorce later on? Yes. A petition for legal separation resembles a divorce action in most respects, short of fully dissolving the marriage. In my practice, a legal separation is most usually pursued where there is a desire to preserve some benefit of the marital community, such as spousal benefits or insurance coverage. In the end, the legal separation can be converted to a final decree of dissolution after six months.

What is a community property state? According to Washington state law, all property and debts acquired by a couple during their marriage belongs to both parties equally. The presumption is that the property will be evenly divided, although ultimately the court need only arrive at a “just, fair and equitable” division of the community property and debts depending on the individual circumstances of each party. Want the law on division of assets and debts?  Check it out here:

  • "Clayton has done a fantastic job finalizing my parenting plan! He talks fast (admittedly) because he has so much energy and passion for what he does and doesn’t want to waste your time. He’ very knowledgeable in family law and sets reasonable expectations whether it was what I wanted to hear or not. He looks out for his clients best interest and the child in my case.. what I was most impressed by was after about 8 months, he returned my voicemail right away to answer my questions and spent about 15 minutes of his time giving me advice with expecting nothing in return. He is top notch!" - Krista July 2, 2021

  • "Mr Spencer has been in practice for over 30 years. He knows the law better than any attorney I know, and I actually know several. He is honest, straightforward, and will work hard (even at crazy hours), to bring the best results possible. " - Jason Ackley May 25, 2021

  • "I came to Clayton seeking representation for my divorce. This is my first marriage and so going through a divorce was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I had no idea what to expect until I marched into the office of Clayton Spencer. First was a consultation where we met, and he informed me of the timeline/order of events, fees and such that I could expect. He was not pushy, he even wanted me to look into my options before committing to his help. My divorce wasn’t nasty, but it wasn’t simple either, and unless you have a crystal ball there is no way to know what you will need or problems that will arise. I am so happy that I had Clayton in my corner to help see me through this horrific time in my life, he navigated the uncharted waters for me and super pleased with knowledge, professionalism and understanding of my expectations. Thank you to both you and Jill for being so responsive and proactive, and diligent with my case!" - Pamela, July 21, 2020

  • "Mr. Spencer is a honest and thorough lawyer. I hired him to represent me in a child custody case. He took me through a variety of outcomes that may occur and asked me questions so we could create the most beneficial case. When me and the other party came to an agreement on our own time, Mr. Spencer and his secretary Jill helped complete the parenting plan and Jill filed the paperwork quickly. Jill was able to assist me and answer any questions I had. I will hire them again if I ever need legal help in the future. " - Heather July 18, 2020

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