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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: https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26.09.080

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

  • "THANK YOU. Words can’t actually describe my gratitude but I can definitely tell you that your ability to manage me and my messy situation could not come with greater appreciation. I truly believe that I could not have managed it as well or as successfully without you. You are such a blessing to this crazy world and you’re helping make a true difference in people’s lives." - Lindsay, J., June 2018

  • "You have no idea how much I appreciated the kindness, patience, and above all the love you showed me during the last five months. I could not have coped through this nightmare without you. Thank you! I also wanted to let you know how grateful I am to have had you in my corner during this ordeal. It means a lot to me to have had someone (so amazingly talented and competent) who I had complete trust in handling the most difficult event of my life. Once again my most sincere thank you!" - Judith D., Vancouver, June 2017

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