Assemblyman Mike Gatto

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) introduced new legislation that would provide reasonable accommodations for adult children who want to visit their parents, and provide children the right to know when an ailing parent’s health becomes worse or if the parent dies. The proposed legislation, AB 1085, will provide legal recourse when children from previous marriages are being denied access to a parent by their parent’s current spouse or by another family member.

With divorce and remarriage common, there is a possibility of conflict between a subsequent spouse and a child from an ailing parent’s previous marriage. Current law provides no mechanism for children or relatives to petition a court for visitation when they are denied access to the elder in question by a current spouse. Nor is there an obligation for such caretakers to inform family members when an elder dies or enters acute-medical care.

Gatto’s legislation would help resolve these situations by requiring children and siblings to be informed when a loved one enters into acute-medical care for more than three days, or passes away. It would also provide judges the authority to issue an order enforcing an elder’s right to visitation. Finally, AB 1085 authorizes an agent operating under a medical power of attorney to file a petition to enforce the principal’s rights to visitation. The legislation represents the culmination of over a year’s worth of work on this issue by Assemblyman Gatto.

“Conflict among family members is the last thing our loved ones want to see as they approach their final hours,” said Gatto. “I hope this bill will help decrease the heartache and stress of families already facing difficult circumstances.”

Assemblyman Gatto has been working to develop the legislation with several children who have been denied access to their ailing parents, including Kerri Kasem, radio and television personality, and current co-host of the show “Protecting Your Family” on KABC Talk Radio. Kerri is an outspoken advocate of visitation rights for adult children as a result of her struggle to see her beloved father, broadcasting legend Casey Kasem, who struggled with poor health before his passing last year.

After sharing her struggle to see her father on various media outlets, Kerri and Assemblyman Gatto received thousands of communications from across the country of similar stories of heartache. One notable example came from Catherine Falk, the daughter of actor Peter Falk, who maintained a loving relationship with her father for more than thirty years. In 2008, Mr. Falk became completely incapacitated as a result of advanced dementia. Mrs. Falk, however, failed to inform Catherine, or his other children of his declining condition and refused to allow his children to visit their ailing father.

“The law must do more to keep up with the changing norms of modern families,” said Gatto. “AB 1085 brings the law into the 21st century and allows family members to focus on caring for their loved ones.”

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Consumer Protection and Privacy Committee, and the longest-serving current member of the State Assembly. He represents California’s 43rd Assembly District, which includes Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.