While it certainly helps to have a spouse sign off on a divorce, in Washington you can still get divorced even if your spouse is uncooperative. That can happen in several different ways, depending on the actions your spouse takes or fails to take.
If the two parties are able to agree to get divorced and as to the terms of the divorce, then it can all done by signature. We would ask your spouse to sign a document showing they received the initial papers (including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage), or even to sign the Petition as a co-petitioner with you.
Then when we have the final divorce orders prepared, we ask both parties to sign the orders showing that they are agreed.
We are required to show the court that the spouse has been given notice of the divorce action. If your spouse is uncooperative and will not sign a receipt for the initial documents, then we need to have that spouse served with the Summons and Petition. This means that we have a process server find your spouse and hand the papers to him or her, and then file an affidavit with the court stating that the papers were served. If the spouse has moved to an unknown location or otherwise cannot be found, then we may ask the court to allow a form of alternate service, such as posting notice in a newspaper or mailing the papers to the person’s last known address.
Once the initial papers have been served, the spouse has a certain time period (typically 20 days) to file a Response to the Petition. If they do not file a Response, then we can bring a motion for an Order of Default, which allows us to complete the divorce without them.
If they do file a Response, they have now chosen to involve themselves in the case. This means that to complete the divorce, we either have to come to a settlement agreement and have both parties sign off on it, or we proceed to trial to have a judge determine the terms of the divorce.
As you can see, your spouse cannot keep you from getting a divorce by not cooperating. If they do not choose to involve themselves at all, then the divorce can be accomplished by default. If they get involved but won’t come to an agreement on the terms, a judge will determine the terms for them and enter a divorce decree.