Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has thrown the full weight of her office behind the efforts of a New Jersey man to regain custody of his 8-year-old son, who has been held by another family in Brazil for more than four years.
“I did raise it at the highest levels of the Brazilian government. I've been working with several members of Congress. We're hoping that this case gets resolved,” Clinton told NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell in an interview in Israel about the case of David Goldman and his son, Sean. The interview aired Wednesday on TODAY.
“Mr. Goldman has, under every known law of international adoption, followed the rules,” Clinton said. “He's come in, he's made a claim — which is certainly a paramount claim — as the biological father, with every right to have custody of his son.
“A child belongs with his family,” the secretary of state added. “There is no reason why David Goldman should not get his child back, and we're hoping that that will be resolved very soon. Obviously, if not, we will continue to raise it with the Brazilian government.”
While declaring her support for Goldman’s rights as a father, Clinton cautioned that what happens to Sean Goldman is ultimately up to the Brazilian courts.
“They have an independent judiciary like we have an independent judiciary,” Clinton told Mitchell.
International law and treaties between the United States and Brazil support Goldman’s claims. Clinton likened the case to that of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old Cuban boy who became the center of an international custody battle in November 2000. The boy’s mother drowned along with several others trying to flee Cuba for Florida. Elian was one of two survivors and was put in the custody of an uncle in Florida.
Goldman’s case is similar. His wife, a native of Brazil, took Sean, who was then 4, on what was to be a two-week trip to visit family in Brazil. Once there, she informed her husband that she would not return to New Jersey and was keeping Sean with her.
A New Jersey court ruled that Bruna Goldman had to return to the United States with Sean for a custody hearing. The mother ignored the orders, divorced Goldman in his absence, and married a Brazilian lawyer from a prominent and politically connected family.
A four-year fight
Goldman never stopped his efforts to regain custody of his son, but the only contact he had for four years were a few fleeting phone calls. His battle took on renewed urgency last year when Bruna died giving birth to a child. Despite laws in both countries supporting Goldman’s custody rights, Bruna’s Brazilian husband moved to declare himself Sean’s legal father.
Early this year, a federal Brazilian court took over the case from the local courts that had been thwarting Goldman’s effort. Last month, the court allowed Goldman to visit Sean for the first time since 2004. He spent two days with Sean under close supervision and the observation of child psychologists chosen by the Brazilian family that is fighting to retain custody.