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Davis Brown Health Law Blog  

Get Me A Whistle! Refereeing Family Visitation under the New Rules - May 7, 2015

On April 24, 2015, Governor Branstad signed into law Senate File 306, which amends Iowa Code Chapter 633 to provide for very specific forms of visitation for adult persons who have a guardian. The law limits a guardian from barring visitation by family members and requires court approval for any ban on visitation. Such approval can be sustained only upon a showing of good cause to the court.  However, the guardian may place reasonable restrictions on the time, place and manner of visitation or communication. 


The statute clearly states that an adult ward under a guardianship, has the right of “communication, visitation or interaction” with other persons consistent with the prior wishes of the adult ward.  This will be true if the adult ward has previously expressed an interest in communicating with this person, even if they can no longer give consent due to physical or mental issues.  The presumption under the statute will be that visitation was wanted and desired.  This rule will broaden the ability of feuding family members to require visitation and to supersede the wishes of a guardian in relationship to family interaction.


While the statute does not specifically address Powers of Attorney, and may not apply to the Power of Attorney, it is likely the people in this circumstance will view the law broadly and without case law to limit the parameters, it is certainly possible the Department of Inspections and Appeals and others would expand to this definition in practice to include the Power of Attorney.


From a practical prospective what does this mean for the facility or hospital?  This rule may seem great in a made-for-TV movie where children are feuding with the mega millionaire’s third trophy wife, but in real life it is likely to create substantial complications for the facility.  When asked by a guardian to limit visitation of family members or to prohibit certain visitors, absent a direct showing that a court order has been received or an independent assessment that there is a safety danger for the visitation, visitation may not be denied. 


This will frequently place the facility in a position of refereeing these family concerns as it is likely that family members will ask facility employees to sit in on visitation or otherwise monitor contact.  As a facility or provider, you don’t want to be a tattletale.  You don’t want to be in the position of monitoring family feuds, many of which have complicated and historical roots.


You will need to make some decisions up front as to how you might manage situations of this type, what type of assistance will be provided in monitoring visitation and how best to implement this new rule. This would include evaluating the types of “personal” services you already provide and making sure these items, including visitation requests, court-orders, and monitoring, are aligned with your goals and staffing.  Then draft, train for and implement these policies.