Earlier this month, six years after the shocking murder of a South Pasadena child by his father, new legislation aimed at protecting children from abusive parents and addressing systemic failures of the family court system was signed into law by California Governor Newsom.
In April 2017, 5-year-old Aramazd “Piqui” Andressian, Jr., was smothered to death with a sweater by his father, Aramazd Andressian, Sr., during a bitter custody battle.
Sponsored by Senator Susan Rubio of Baldwin Park, California, SB 331, Child Custody: Child Abuse and Safety—known as Piqui’s Law—mandates that judges undergo training on domestic violence and child abuse.
Piqui’s law will also prohibit judges from ordering “family reunification” programs and services, including camps, workshops, and “therapeutic vacations” purported to treat “parental alienation,” all of which are highly controversial.
The law helps meet a critical need for judges—especially in family court cases—to understand patterns of abuse and recognize red flags. It will also help the court prioritize child safety by providing a fuller awareness of children’s harm when forcibly removed from a safe, non-violent parent and placed with an abusive one.
Data shows that since 2008, over 960 children in the U.S. have been killed by a parent during divorce, separation, or custody dispute.
The new law is a bittersweet victory for Piqui’s mother, Ana Estevez, who has fought tirelessly since her son’s death to bring change.
In the spring of 2017, Estevez and Andressian were amid a divorce and contentious custody dispute. Estevez warned officials that her estranged husband was abusive; she had filed a restraining order and pleaded for supervised visitation. Nevertheless, the judge granted the father extended visits and allowed Andressian to take Piqui on vacation to Disneyland.
When Andressian failed to attend their planned custody exchange a week later, Estevez contacted local authorities. She found out that Andressian had, that same day, been found unconscious in South Pasadena’s Arroyo Park, initially claiming that Piqui had mysteriously disappeared.
Andressian was soon arrested on suspicion of child abduction and endangerment but was released due to lack of evidence. Weeks later, after applying for a passport and heading to Las Vegas, police arrested him again.
A desperate 71-day search ended on July 1st, 2017. Led by clues from Andressian himself, authorities found Piqui’s body left in the wilderness above Santa Barbara, about a mile from Cachuma Lake.
Andressian was extradited to Los Angeles the same day, where he confessed to the murder and a plot to kill himself after killing his son and framing his ex-wife. After pleading guilty to first-degree murder, Andressian is now serving 25 years to life in prison.
The skilled and compassionate family attorneys at SFLG are experienced in all aspects of custody and visitation disputes and fierce advocates for your child’s wellbeing.
By Debra Schoenberg