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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 represented me in a very challenging case. Clearly outlying options and potential outcomes before proceeding, always affording me time to make my decisions. His firm was not after my money and charging me unnecessarily, but more driven to deliver the results. If you need sound legal advice or top-knotch representation- Spencer Law is where you should start your search." - Paul September 14, 2022

  • "Clayton is very knowledgeable and has a great plan for your case. He helped me to completely resolve my matters even before my first hearing. He will thoroughly explain the process to you and do everything he can to get you a favorable outcome. I highly recommend Clayton Spencer!" - Katie September 10, 2022

  • "I called Clayton today and left a voicemail, he called back shortly after. He was very upfront. Even though he couldn’t represent me, he spent several minutes giving me advice and options. Very kind man! Highly recommend him if you are in his area!" - Lily June 16, 2022

  • "I can’t say enough good things about Clayton and his paralegal Jill. They helped me navigate the scariest time of my life. I knew I needed a tough lawyer and trust me Clayton is one tough lawyer. I am extremely grateful they coached me through a very difficult time. They educated me at every level and represented well. I highly recommend using Clayton and Jill." - anonymous June 6, 2022

  • "I was referred to Clayton Spencer Law Firm by another attorney who told me that Clayton is the BEST. I was having a horrific time with the attorney that I was working with and am so grateful that I terminated her and hired Clayton and Jill. Working with Clayton and Jill was night and day in comparison. Clayton always provided thorough explanations and he kindly laid out the pros and cons of the actions that needed to be taken each step of the way. He took the time to carefully listen to my concerns so that I never felt disregarded. He and Jill provided guidance and were empathetic and kind, yet moved the process along quickly and so, so, so, cost efficiently. A child support calculation and motion that took my previous counsel’s firm 6 weeks to complete took Jill about 20 minutes. When opposing counsel didn’t respond to requests or phone calls, as was typical, Clayton politely emailed every single day until he received a response. I felt that Clayton and Jill truly wanted what was best for me and my son, while making sure that the settlement was fair for both parties. I highly recommend this dynamic duo!" - maria April 11, 2022

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