Generally, a family member cannot restrict the visitation rights of other family members without first having been appointed as a guardian or conservator over the elderly adult. It is usually very difficult to prevent visitation rights of “bad relatives” without a guardianship or conservatorship in place because relatives are inherently deemed to be looking out for the elderly adult’s best interests and care (similar to treatment of family members at hospital emergency rooms). However, there are many circumstances where the family member would like to restrict or even prevent the “bad relatives” from visiting the ward, often in cases of physical abuse, financial abuse, or general illegal behavior.

You may recall the famous cases involving Casey Kasem and Mickey Rooney, in which both of their families got involved in very heated and public feuds between the family members and a “bad relative.” In Casey Kasem’s situation, his wife attempted to prevent his daughters and other family members from visiting him during his final days by removing him from hospitals and hiding him in different states. In Mickey Rooney’s case, a legal guardian had to be appointed to prevent his stepson from taking financial abuse of Rooney while he was living with the stepson. Rooney’s family members attempted to prevent the stepson from visiting Rooney, but were unable to do so until they were appointd guardians. As you can see from these examples alone, there are certain advantages to allowing the family to restrict or prevent visitation rights from certain ” bad relatives.”

California recently proposed A.B. 2034 to allow family members of the first degree (son, daughter, spouse) to petition the courts to either prevent or grant visitation rights to certain family members. California’s former law authorizes only a conservator or a trustee of an elder or dependent adult, an attorney-in-fact of an elder or dependent adult, a person appointed as a guardian ad litem for an elder or dependent adult, or another person legally authorized to seek a protective order on behalf of an elder or dependent adult who has suffered physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction, or other treatment with resulting physical harm or pain or mental suffering, or the deprivation by a care custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.

The new California law now allows a relative of the first degree to bring a petition for a visitation order to enjoin a respondent from keeping an elder or dependent adult in isolation from contact with the petitioner. Essentially, this law now allows a spouse (or child) to bring a petition to prevent another family member from visiting the elderly adult or from keeping the elderly adult in isolation from the spouse or child. Thus, a family member can still protect the elderly adult from the “bad relative” by restricting visitation rights without having to go through the court process to be appointed as a guardian. This law also allows a relative in the first degree to ask the court for expanded visitation rights if they believe that the “bad relative” is hiding the elderly adult from the other family members.

Although this law has yet to be formally enacted, it does provide a very useful tool and avenue for family members who are in a feud with other relatives based on physical abuse, financial abuse, etc. If this bill is passed, it will be highly likely that other states will follow suit as well, and thus provide a new avenue to protect elderly adults who are being taken advantage of by sneaky “bad relatives.” Whether it is by preventing these “bad relatives” from visiting the elderly adult or by asking the court to allow visitation to the elderly adult being hidden by the “bad relative,” this proposed law will have a profound effect on guardianship/conservatorship proceedings and family visitation rights.

If you or someone you know has found themselves in a situation with your own “bad relative,” this law may become a trusty tool for your legal fight. Please keep a close eye on the California legislature and the other states’ legislatures as well in order to determine if this law may soon become available to you!