“Uncontested Divorce” is a phrase one hears a lot, but it means different things to different people.
Some people simply mean a divorce where both parties have agreed to divorce; while others mean that the parties have informally agreed upon the terms of the divorce; and some just mean that they expect to be able to agree on terms.
Since Washington is a no-fault state, to “contest” the divorce does not mean raising an argument as to whether there should be a divorce – i.e. you do not have the ability to stop the other person from getting a divorce.
Generally what we as lawyers understand “uncontested” to mean is that the other party (the Respondent) has not filed a Response to the Petition for Divorce. The Response creates a “contest” by raising issues that the parties may not be in agreement about.
Absent a Response, the Respondent does not have a right to appear at trial, and there generally will not be any trial. Once a Response has been filed, the case is going to trial unless an agreement is reached.
There may be several reasons why a Response was not filed. It may be that the Respondent has disappeared and was served by alternate service (posting in the newspaper or mailing to last known address) and does not actually know about the divorce action. It may be that they just don’t care about what happens in the divorce. Or it may be that they are actively cooperating with the Petitioner to reach agreement and don’t feel a need to protect themselves by filing a Response.
When someone comes in to our office for an uncontested divorce, we try and inquire further as to what they mean. Often it just means they don’t think there will be any real arguments. Sometimes this proves to be incorrect, so we don’t count on it being uncontested until we have the other spouse’s signatures on the final orders!