You can get a divorce in Washington whether or not your spouse chooses to cooperate, but you cannot get a divorce without notifying your spouse that you are seeking a divorce. Notification means serving the divorce papers on your spouse (see my previous article on serving divorce papers).
Many people think that if the spouse won’t sign the the divorce papers, they can’t get divorced. However, at least under Washington law, the spouse’s consent is not needed for a divorce. If the spouse refuses to deal with the divorce at all, then you can obtain a default order after their period to respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has expired.
The default order basically says that because the other party has chosen not to involve themselves in the case, you can proceed to complete the case without them. Based on the default order, once your 90 day period since service and filing has run, you can proceed to enter a final divorce Decree with the court. The final Decree does have to comply with the requests set out in the Petition (i.e., no surprises).
If your spouse does file a Response to the Petition, then you either need to reach agreement or go to trial. The court does require that the parties attempt some sort of dispute resolution process (usually a Settlement Conference) prior to trial to try and reach agreement, but if you just can’t reach agreement, or even get your spouse to attend a Settlement Conference, then the case will proceed to trial and a Judge will decide any issues where the two of you have not been able to reach an agreement. The Judge will then enter a final Decree based on his/her decisions and any agreements the two of you have been able to make.
The total time period from filing and service through trial varies from county to county, but in King County tends to run around 11 months.