Sen. Ruth Johnson cosponsors family visitation bill

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate last week approved legislation cosponsored by Sen. Ruth Johnson to ensure the visitation rights of people wishing to spend time with a loved one but who are being prevented from seeing the person by a guardian.

“The family is the core of our society and the most important unit we will ever be part of,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “That is why it’s heartbreaking to hear about cases where children are being denied access to an elderly parent because of a power struggle with someone who is a guardian of that parent. I cosponsored this measure to ensure family and friends can visit someone they care about regardless of whether the guardian likes them.”

Senate Bill 110 would allow a court to find that a guardian is denying access and that visitation to an incapacitated person who would be best served by having a relationship with the person seeking access, such as a child or other family member. After such a finding, the court could appoint a limited guardian to supervise access with relatives or close friends of an incapacitated person.

Currently, a guardian or conservator of a parent or other adult who has been declared incapacitated has total control of visitation and contact. In some cases, this has allowed guardians to deny access to family members and friends even when preserving these relationships would be in the best interest of the person under guardianship.

“The sad story of Casey Kasem’s family is an example of how a guardian’s feelings prevented a man’s children from seeing their ailing dad until the courts stepped in,” Johnson said. “My hope is that no one else has to go through what the Kasem children did.”

Jean Kasem, Casey Kasem’s second wife — who is not the biological mother of his children Kerri, Mike and Julie — began engaging in a legal battle with the children after Casey’s daughters had been allowed to visit him without her permission. Jean removed her husband from the hospital against medical advice and moved him from California to Washington to prevent his children from seeing him. Kerri went to court and was granted conservatorship and Jean was removed as Casey’s decision-maker. When Kerri got to her father, his health had deteriorated significantly, and he died shortly thereafter.

SB 110 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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