In April 2017, Ana Estevez reported her son Piqui missing after his father failed to show up for a scheduled custody exchange. The parents had been fighting over custody as Ana sought to protect her son from her ex-husband. Officers notified Ana that Piqui’s father Ara Andressian was found unconscious in a park and had been taken to a local hospital, but there was no trace of Piqui. For over 10 weeks, hundreds of law enforcement officers, volunteers, family, and friends worked to search for Piqui. Tragically, in June 2017, two detectives informed Ana that Ara had revealed the location of Piqui’s body. Piqui was murdered at the hands of an abusive parent during a custody dispute. Within a few hours, Piqui was located in Santa Barbara County, left lifeless and abandoned.
Piqui’s Law Introduced to Prioritize Child Safety in Custody Disputes
Following Piqui’s tragedy, Senator Susan Rubio introduced Piqui’s Law, or Senate Bill 616 (SB 616), to protect innocent children from being murdered by abusive parents during custody battles. As part of a national movement to reform the judicial system, SB 616 will be part of a systemic change so that what happened to Piqui will never happen again. Judges and court employees are in the best positions to help avoid this loss of life. SB 616 will give critical federal funding to California to protect victims of child abuse and domestic violence in the family court system. The bill will also align with federal provisions within the Violence Against Women Act in order to receive funding.
SB 616 Passed Unanimously by State Assembly
The bill was heard on June 28, 2022 in the State Assembly Judiciary Committee. On August 15, 2022, in a unanimous, bipartisan 76-0 vote, the State Assembly passed Piqui’s Law into effect. Now, judges and other who perform duties in family law matters must undergo trainings to recognize and respond to domestic violence and child abuse in order to prioritize child safety in custody proceedings. Furthermore, the bill clarifies California’s ban on the use of dangerous reunification programs in family court. It specifies that prohibited ordered family reunification services include reunification therapy, treatments, programs, or workshops that are predicated on cutting off a child from a parent with whom the child is attached.
The passage of SB 616 is a step in reforming California’s family courts to better protect domestic violence and child abuse survivors. According to the Executive Director of the Center for Judicial Excellence, over 800 children were murdered in the United States since 2008 by a divorcing or separating parent. The bill is supported by dozens of domestic violence and child abuse advocacy groups, as well as other Senators and legislators.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are involved in a custody dispute, contact our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in a wide range of family law cases, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best outcome for you.
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