A hopeful New Jersey father arrived in Brazil Friday to reclaim his son after a five-year custody battle, but the same Brazilian court that granted him custody changed its mind and delayed the transfer of the boy -- possibly until February.
David Goldman was hoping that after at least 11 trips to Brazil, this would be the final one and that he would have his 9-year-old son, Sean, back home in time for Christmas. Brazil's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Sean should be returned to his father Friday at the U.S. consulate in Rio de Janeiro.
But the court delayed the reunion today after a judge agreed with a petition by the boy's Brazilian family that Sean should remain there until it is decided whether his testimony could be heard in court.
The Associated Press reported that Thursday's ruling suspends the decision made the previous day to return Sean to his father.
Because the Brazilian Supreme Court is winding down its session, a ruling on whether the boy's testimony can be heard may not happen before February.
However, U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is traveling with Goldman, insisted that reports Sean is stuck in Brazil until February are premature. According to Smith, Goldman's legal counsel in Brazil and U.S. government counsel there believe the new setback by the lone Supreme Court justice could be vacated Friday or early next week.
The Brazilian Supreme Court is still in session Friday in Brasilia, so Goldman's attorney must quickly file an appeal to the court and ask for what is essentially an emergency decision, Smith said. He added that the court could vacate the latest decision by the justice and reinstate the unanimous decision of the appeals court ordering that the boy be handed over in 48 hours.
Earlier, Goldman indicated when he arrived in Brazil today that he wasn't convinced he would be able to leave with his son.
"I hope I can go home with my son," Goldman said when he landed in Rio de Janeiro.
He expressed similar sentiments on Wednesday after the court's initial ruling.
"I'm hopeful that now that the rule of law has appeared to be followed, that the rule of God, the rule of nature, the rule of human decency will be followed and my son will come home with me," Goldman said Wednesday.
Sean has been in Brazil since 2004, when he went on vacation with his mother, Bruna Bianchi, to her native country.
But Bianchi never returned to New Jersey and instead remarried a politically connected lawyer before dying in childbirth last year.
The Hague convention requires children such as Sean who are unlawfully taken to other countries to be returned. But Bianchi's husband refused to send him back and a custody battle ensued.
"I would love to just take him in my arms and squeeze him and never let him go, but I know he has been under a lot of pressure from these people and I will just do my best to be his dad," Goldman said.
Goldman spoke about a visit with his son on "Good Morning America" in June.
"It was so joyous," Goldman said. "And the only one question he asked me is, after we were talking, 'How come you haven't been here to see me in this time?' ... I just said, 'Sean, I've been here many times.'"
Goldman testified earlier this month before a congressional committee investigating international child abduction.
"We need our children home," Goldman told the committee. "The children, our children, my child ... needs to come home."