LOS ANGELES – Kerri Kasem, the eldest daughter of the late radio host Casey Kasem, spent the last year fighting her stepmom Jean over accusations of elder abuse and the right to visit her ailing father. Now the former “Sixx Sense” host is working to pass new legislation to ensure no more children have to endure such a family dispute.
“Right now, there is no law that allows a judge to rule on just visitation,” Kerri Kasem told FOX411. “This law will allow a judge to just rule on visitation. There is no going after wills and the state. There is no dealing with a conservatorship. It is just visitation.”
Kerri has teamed up with assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) to author the new bill, entitled Parental Access Legislation, which is designed to protect children from previous marriages from being prohibited access to a parent by a parent’s later spouse or child. The bill would also mandate conservators notify relatives if a loved one is hospitalized or dies, and require that they disclose funeral and burial arrangements.
Casey Kasem, 82, died on June 15, two weeks after he was removed from the care of his wife and admitted to a hospital in Washington State with an infected bedsore. He signed off the air 2009 amid a struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
According to Gatto, as it currently stands, adult children are not afforded the legal right to visit an acutely ill parent. He says he has received thousands of letters from other children going through similar frustrations as Kerri.
“With the changes in family structure (divorce and remarriage becoming more prevalent) there is a greater possibility of conflict between a subsequent spouse and an ailing parent’s children from a previous marriage,” he explained. “In some cases, elderly parents are not even informed that their children wish to see them. Such conflicts are very painful and can mean that certain adult children do not get to see their parent(s) before they pass away and some people don’t even know where their parents are buried.”
The new legislation would allow people to petition the court in an efficient way, and also allow parents to fill out a form pre-approving certain individuals to visit them irrespective of circumstances. Kerri also said that when a court-appointed attorney spoke to her father around November last year, he expressed a desire to see his children. Had the proposed law been in place, the children would have been able to do so.
“If my dad had said he didn’t want to see his kids, then we would not have gotten it and it would have ended there. Or if the person was incapacitated (authorities) can look at the child/parent history and make a ruling on that. At this point, the guardian can say ‘I don’t want these people visiting’ and it is legal,” she continued, stressing that the newly introduced legislation wouldn’t automatically grant children visitation rights, but gives judges the capacity to act promptly on that factor alone.
Kerri recently launched non-profit organization The Kasem Cares Foundation as a means to educate the public regarding the proposed legislation and encourage supporters to donate to the cause.
While it has been more than a month since Kasem died, the family feud over access to him continues. His body is believed to have been transported by Jean to a funeral home in Montreal, the city of her alleged new boyfriend. However, the Kasem children have not been formally notified as to the location or whether the body has already been cremated.
A representative for Jean Kasem could not immediately be reached for comment.
“The bill is with the Senate right now, we have one more vote on the Senate floor which will take place August 15,” Kerri added. “And I am not stopping in California. This is going to be in every single state. Something needs to be done for justice and to help people who are helpless, fighting tooth-and-nail to see their parents before they die.”
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-- Kelly Reinke contributed to this report.