Brazil’s Supreme Court is expected to rule June 10 on the nearly five-year custody battle between a New Jersey father and the Brazilian family that claims his son as their own. The decision could affect the fates of 50 or more other American children in Brazil involved in similar cases.
New Jersey dad David Goldman had gone to Brazil on Monday expecting to regain custody of his son on Wednesday, in accordance with a federal court ruling. But on Tuesday, a minor political party persuaded a single judge on the 11-member Supreme Court to stop the transfer of custody. The party, which is allied with the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, argued that the Hague Treaty — to which Brazil and the United States are signatories, and which upholds Goldman’s parental rights — is not legally enforceable under the Brazilian constitution.
The 10 other justices on the Brazilian supreme court are expected to rule on the appeal June 10. Meantime, in the wake of the single judge’s action, a U.S. lawmaker planned to introduce a bill that would suspend trading preferences with Brazil until the country honors a treaty regarding international child abductions. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican of New Jersey, called for the trading sanctions.
Hope on hold
Before he returned dejectedly to the U.S. Friday morning, Goldman did get to meet with his son under supervision by Brazilian authorities on Wednesday. He said he was told that Sean was distraught and was taken to see a psychologist Wednesday morning, before the visit.
“I don’t know if that’s true,” he said of the visit to the psychologist. But, he added, “He’s not in a good emotional state over there with the environment that he’s in. It’s very, very sad.”
On the Web site BringSeanHome.org, Video: Goldman: ‘I’m not giving up’ Goldman said if the Supreme Court upholds the argument that the Hague Treaty does not apply in Brazil, it would affect many other children in Brazil involved in similar custody battles.
On Wednesday, the distraught father had told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira in an exclusive interview that he fears for his son’s well-being the longer the legal tug-of-war continues.
“This isn’t good. This isn’t good at all,” Goldman told Vieira. “He’s got to come home with me. He’s in a very unhealthy environment, and this has to stop.”
The boy's mother, Bruna, took Sean for a two-week vacation to her native Brazil in 2004 and never returned. Instead, she divorced David Goldman in Brazil and married influential Rio de Janeiro lawyer Joao Paulo Lins e Silva. Bruna died last year of complications from the birth of a subsequent child.
The case seemed to begin to turn in Goldman’s favor earlier this year when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama became involved. After Clinton’s intervention, the case was transferred from lower courts to Brazil’s federal court system, where Goldman hoped he would get a fairer hearing. He was able to visit Sean twice under tight supervision before the federal court finally ruled that he should regain custody.
“It’s very, very sad and very frustrating that my son is still held there in this environment, and I cannot do a thing to get him out of there,” Goldman told Vieira Wednesday. He then added, “I’m not giving up. He’s coming home.”
On Thursday, he told Vieira, “I hope this is over. I hope today’s the day.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.
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