A loophole in Washington State’s child custody laws is tearing families apart and making it tougher on children who are caught in the middle. While lawmakers and the courts scramble to fix the issue permanently, families across the state are still be seriously affected by the problem. Currently, it is possible to finalize adoptions even when a child’s biological mother or father is appealing the child custody case in court.

Just in the last year, the troubling child custody loophole reared its head twice in Washington State – in two cases, by the time a child’s biological parents won their appeal to keep their parental rights, their children had already been officially adopted by other families.

In Richmond, Jill and Jim Mailloux officially adopted two brothers from the foster system in February. However, almost a year later, the biological mother of the two boys won an appeal for her children, with the judge agreeing that she should have never lost custody of her children in the first place. The loophole is not only heartbreaking for Mailoux, who had solidified a bond with their children, it is also confusing for the kids themselves, who need consistency and security.

On the other side of the issue, Spokane resident Angela Hauseur had to see her two children officially adopted into another family while she was still fighting for custody and visitation rights. While Hauseur struggled with a drug addiction and related crimes in the early 2000s that led to the loss of her children, she has been drug-free since 2005 and fighting to get her family back.

The Washington Legislature failed to pass a bill this session that would close the child custody loophole, but the Washington State court system itself could possibly solve the problem once and for all by writing a rule change. Either way, the issue needs to be fixed, for the sake of biological parents, adoptive parents, and the children caught in the middle.
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington