Cite as E070210
Filed December 4, 2020; Modified and Certified for Publication December 21, 2020
Fourth District, Div. Two
By Golnaz Yazdchi
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP
Headnote: Conservatorships – Retained Personal Rights of Conservatee
Summary: The court lacks authority to require a conservatee to receive a visitor against her will and over the objection of the conservator.
Anna Navarrete, a 33-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, a developmental speech and language disorder, and an anxiety adjustment order, was the subject of competing conservatorship petitions filed by her mother one hand, and her father and older brother on the other hand. At trial, Navarrete’s therapist, mother, and younger brother testified that Navarrete told them that her father sexually assaulted and raped her, and that she fears her father. The father testified and denied the accusations. The court granted mother’s petition to be appointed Navarrete’s conservator, but granted father monitored visitation. Despite acknowledging Navarrete’s genuine fear for her father, the court concluded it would be in Navarrete’s best interests to have joint counseling sessions with her father to allow reconciliation in the event that the accusations of sexual assault and rape were not true. Navarrete, her conservator, her attorney, and her therapist had objected to visitation, and appealed.
Held: Reversed. The establishment of a conservatorship does not divest the conservatee of her autonomy and personal rights to receive visitors, telephone calls, and personal mail. The public policy of maintaining a conservatee’s personal agency as much as possible is so strong that the court may intervene on a conservatee’s behalf to ensure that she may exercise her personal rights, and even direct a conservator to allow visitors at the conservatee’s request. Conversely, the court does not have the power to force an unwanted visitor on the conservatee. An adult conservatee’s disability does not put her in the legal position of a minor; thus, the court may not compel visitation over the objection of the conservatee and her conservator.