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Lessons Learned from the Fight over Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem, the actor and radio personality best known as the host of American Top 40, a nationally syndicated radio program which aired in the 1970’s and 80’s, has recently been in the news for a different reason.  His second wife and the children from his marriage to his first wife have been fighting over him in court.

Kasem has advanced Parkinson’s Disease and it has been reported that he is bedridden and that the illness has robbed him of his voice.   His illness may have also advanced to dementia.  Kasem’s  three children say they haven’t been able to see their father for several months and that his wife, Jean, has refused to share with them information about his medical health and care.

The dispute does not appear to be about Kasem’s assets, but solely about his care.  His oldest daughter, Kerri, claims they are not named in their dad’s will and are not looking for anything financially from him.  They are upset, however, that they have been unable to see Casey and are frustrated in being unable to get access to his doctors.

This week a California judge denied their application for a temporary conservatorship, however, another hearing is scheduled for next month to decide whether a permanent conservatorship should be awarded.  It is unclear from news reports whether Kasem has signed a health care directive and if so, whether Jean or one of his children has been designated as his health care representative.

Unfortunately, these types of disputes are not uncommon, especially in the case of second marriages.  Kasem, after divorcing his first wife, has been married to Jean for 33 years.  It is clear that stepmom and stepchildren don’t get along.  Jean claims Casey’s relationship with his children is toxic and has limited their access to their father.

It would seem that those children have an uphill battle to wrestle control of Casey’s care away from Jean.  They will have to establish either that their dad has expressed a desire for them to manage his care or that Jean is not doing a good job of caring for him and his health is in jeopardy because of it.  And they may need to establish that their dad no longer has the capacity to make decisions himself.  If not, then he has the right to make decisions about his care and who he wants to make those decisions if and when he can’t.

With allegations being made by both sides, it will be very difficult to sort out what the truth of the situation is.  It would be best for all, especially Casey, if his family sits down and negotiates a settlement.   Courts do the best they can but airing this kind of dispute in public and in front of the media is never the best way to provide care for a loved one.