ANNAPOLIS – A daughter of the late Casey Kasem urged Maryland lawmakers Thursday to pass legislation enabling adults to seek court orders letting them to visit their incapacitated parents over the wishes of guardians and spouses, a reunion she said she and her siblings were denied by their stepmother until the “American Top 40” host’s dying days in Washington state.
“All we asked for was visitation,” Kerri Kasem told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. “We just wanted to see our dad.”
Kasem testified in favor of Senate Bill 70, which would enable adult children to seek circuit-court orders permitting visitation with an incapacitated parent.
Under the measure, judges could grant visitation if they determine the parent, with sufficient capacity, expressed a “knowing and intelligent” desire for visitation. If the parent lacks capacity, judges could determine if the parent wants visitation based on the history of the parent’s relationship with the child; statements the parent made expressing a desire for visitation; any power of attorney or document expressing the parent’s desire for visitation; and an investigator’s report.
Judges could grant visitation if they determine the parent would want it and it is in the parent’s best interests.
Sen. Edward R. Reilly, the bill’s sponsor, said judicial consideration of the petition ensures the parents are not “held hostage by their guardian or caretaker” when an adult child wants to visit and helps prevent exploitation of elderly residents.
“Elder abuse is something that happens every day,” added Reilly, R-Anne Arundel.
Under the bill, the adult child’s petition would have to state the parent’s known health; the visitation sought; the efforts made to obtain visitation; and if the incapacity affects the parent’s ability to respond “knowingly and intelligently” to questions about the proposed visitation.
The adult child would have to serve a copy of the petition on the parent, the parent’s attorney and guardian. The petition would have to be mailed to the parent’s spouse, if applicable.
The circuit court judge would appoint an investigator to determine if the parent has the capacity to consent to the visitation and if he or she desires the visitation. Toward that end, the investigator would interview the child; the parent; the parent’s guardian, spouse, neighbors and close friends. The judge would consider the investigator’s report in deciding whether to grant visitation.
Kerri Kasem, through a foundation founded in her father’s memory, has been lobbying nationwide for legislation, such as SB 70, to ensure visitation for adult children in the face of opposition from guardians or other caretakers for disabled parents. She told the Senate panel that her bill is about seeking visitation, not guardianship.
“We just want the ability to ask for visitation,” said Kasem, who heads Kasem Cares. “Very few people, I think, want to die alone.”
Sen. H. Wayne Norman Jr., R-Harford and Cecil, said he supports the bill’s emphasis on ensuring visitation for adult children in the face of opposition from a parent’s new-found love who might not want to share.
“If my father finds a new love of his life and marries … she trumps my hand every time,” said Norman, a member of the Senate committee. “We’re talking about visitation, which makes it [the bill] more palatable to me.”
SB70 has been cross-filed in the House of Delegates as House Bill 43. Del. Sid Saab, R-Anne Arundel, is the chief sponsor.
Casey Kasem, who died in June 2014 at age 82, is best known for hosting “American Top 40,” a weekly radio show that for nearly 25 years featured a countdown of the most popular songs in the United States. He also provided the voice of Shaggy in the popular Saturday morning cartoon series “Scooby-Doo.”
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