This article is adapted from the Family Law Focus Blog by Jennifer Brandt of Cozen O'Connor.
When lawyer Jennifer Brandt appeared on the radio show “Crime and Justice With Dan Schorr” on June 8, one of the topics was the ongoing family dispute concerning radio icon, Casey Kasem. Before his death on June 15, 2014, Casey’s wife, Jean and the children from his first marriage had been battling very publicly.
The debacle showed that in child custody matters, if parents could simply focus on what is best for the child, there would be a lot less animosity and disputes.
A few weeks earlier, Jean disappeared with Casey and the children did not know his whereabouts. Casey was very ill, suffering among other things, from a form of dementia. His daughter Kerri went to court in an attempt to find Casey, and a Judge ordered that she be named a temporary conservator and put in charge of his healthcare.
Afterwards, there was another very public battle between Jean and Kerri, when Kerri came to the residence where Jean and Casey were staying and attempted to take Casey to the hospital. In Kerri’s opinion, Casey’s medical condition was worsening. One thing led to another, and Jean ended up hurling raw chopped meat at Kerri in a display of anger. Of course, this incident was reported in the media and only added to the circus-like atmosphere surrounding this dispute.
Brandt compared the situation to a child custody battle. "In the Kasem matter, like many custody cases, parties are so focused on their own emotions and anger, that they often lose sight of the subject of the dispute, which in this case is Kasem, but in child custody matters is the child or children," Brandt said.
"If Casey’s wife and children could have turned their focus to him instead of each other, they would have likely rethought their actions. Similarly, in child custody matters, if parents could simply focus on what is best for the child, there would be a lot less animosity and disputes," Brand said.
Unlike the Kasem matter, parties in a custody dispute can always turn to the court for guidance on how they should proceed with respect to their children. The court is guided by best interests of the children, even though parents sometimes cannot see the forest from the trees. "While parents’ actions are not typically publicized like those of the parties in the Kasem matter, they can be just as ludicrous and more seriously, detrimental to their children," she said.
In a custody dispute that Brandt recently settled, the judge after hearing the agreement placed on the record, commended the parties for their efforts in putting aside their personal feelings and settling the matter for the benefit of their children. The judge said that the parties gave their children a valuable lesson by settling. "They showed their kids that adults can resolve disputes themselves without a judge telling them what to do. I will continue to remind future clients about this wisdom," she said.
When asked if the Kasem matter was too far gone to be remedied, Brandt said, "There is always hope for parties to gain control over their emotions and bad feelings and learn to cooperate for the benefit of their loved one. It is the same in custody disputes. No matter how much anger parties have toward each other, they can always learn to set these feelings aside to be good parents and do what is truly in the best interests of their children."
Jennifer is a regular legal commentator on national and local television outlets such as CNN, Fox New Network, HLN, MSNBC, Fox29, ABC News, NBC and CBS and frequently writes and contributes to articles in numerous publications, including the Huffington Post, Fox Business.com, The PhiIly Post, Avvo.com, Allparenting.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Business Journal, the National Law Journal, and Main Line Today magazine.