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."
Hillary Clinton 'Pleased' by Court Ruling
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a prepared statement Wednesday that she was pleased to see Sean on track to head home.
"I was pleased to hear that the appellate court in Rio de Janeiro has upheld the lower court's decision that Sean Goldman, a young American boy wrongfully retained in Brazil for more than five years, should be reunited with his father David in New Jersey," Clinton said.
"We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction," Clinton added. "And it is my hope that this long legal process is now complete, and that the Goldman family will be reunited quickly.
"They will be in my thoughts and prayers today and throughout this holiday season," she said.
Clinton previously raised the issue of the Hague Convention in connection with the case with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty that "seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return."
Goldman said he was elated at the Brazilian Supreme Court ruling that the country would abide by the Hague Convention, essentially clearing the way for approximately 70 allegedly kidnapped American children, including Sean, to come home.
"He's struggling," Goldman told "Good Morning America." "They're putting a lot of pressure on him. They've been waging this campaign to turn him against me."
Fighting to Bring Sean Goldman Home
Goldman said the visits were so emotionally difficult that he worried the stress from the excessively supervised visits could be damaging to Sean.
He said a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation has proved that his son has been subjected to what he called parental alienation.
Goldman said that he had no inkling of what the future held on the day he drove wife and son to airport five years ago.
"We all gave each other hugs and kisses," he said. "I waved goodbye with the blessings of a safe trip."
Since his ex-wife's death while giving birth to a second child, Goldman has fought for Sean's return, enduring a series of successes and setbacks, including winning custody in Brazilian courts only to see the decision delayed and then later upheld by the country's Supreme Court.
Goldman previously had been awarded custody of Sean last spring, but a single judge from Brazil's Supreme Court then suspended a lower court's order that the boy immediately be returned to his father.
"I'm going to keep the fight like I always have," Goldman told "GMA" in June. "There's only one choice and that's to keep going until my son comes home."
Goldman blamed resistance from a small political party in Brazil for the overturned decision. The group, he said, argued that the Hague Convention was unconstitutional in Brazil.
There are 10 other justices on Brazil's Supreme Court.
Goldman said he's gotten a number of letters and e-mails of support from Brazilian citizens and hoped the government would realize the public relations nightmare this case could cause if Sean was not returned.
"Brazil doesn't want to be known as a place that's going to keep other countries' and other fathers' and other mothers' children," he said.
Goldman said he was careful not to share too many details with his son during their visits together. Instead, Goldman said he worked diligently to make Sean understand that he never abandoned him.
"My point of my time with him is to reassure him how much I love him," Goldman said. "Just to look him in the eye and tell him I love him and hug him."
"Our moments are precious," he said. "We laugh and we play and I wish it could continue."
The case has attracted a great deal of attention from U.S. political leaders including members of the House and Senate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and President Obama, who raised the issue of the boy's return under the Hague Convention with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Attorneys for the mother's family argued that returning Sean to his father after almost five years would cause psychological harm to the boy and say that if he is brought back to the U.S., the transition should be more gradual.
Katie Escherich, Brandy Zadrozny and the Associated Press contributed to this report.