Brazil Court Awards David Goldman Custody of Son After 5-Year Fight

Sean Goldman expected to be reunited with his father in Brazil on Friday.

June 15, 2009, 9:22 PM

Dec. 16, 2009 — -- New Jersey father David Goldman received a holiday gift from a Brazilian court today. After waiting more than five years, he will regain custody of his son, Sean Goldman, who had been held in Brazil by his mother.

A court in Rio de Janeiro ruled 3-0 in a closed session that 9-year-old Sean should be handed over to his father on Friday, the Associated Press reported. David Goldman has been told to be in Brazil in 48 hours to pick up his son at a U.S. Embassy.

Sean has been living with his stepfather since the 2008 death of his mother, Bruna Bianchi, who took her then-4-year-old son to her native Brazil on vacation in 2004 and never returned. She divorced Goldman while in Brazil and married Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a Rio de Janeiro lawyer.

Get the latest developments on the story Thursday on "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m. ET.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "pleased" to see Sean on the 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 in a statement. "We appreciate the assistance and cooperation of the government of Brazil in upholding its obligations under the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. 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 added.

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."

On June 15, the fifth anniversary of the day Sean Goldman was taken to Brazil by his mother, David Goldman told "Good Morning America" that he hoped to be reunited with his son soon. 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."

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."

Fighting to Bring Sean Goldman Home

Since his ex-wife's death giving birth to a second child, Goldman has fought for Sean's return, suffering 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 had previously 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."

President Obama Raised the Issue With Brazil's President

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.

Brandy Zadrozny contributed to this report.

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