Mass. Mother Trapped in Brazil Over Custody Dispute Trying to Come Home

Woman has passport taken away, unable to leave with 6 year old child.

July 04, 2013, 12:26 PM

July 4, 2013— -- A custody battle has a Massachusetts woman and her daughter "trapped in Brazil," according to her Facebook page, and trying to come home.

Shauna Hadden, 33, of Agawam, Mass., took 6-year-old Ava to Brazil so that Ava could see her father. But once they were in the country, her ex-husband filed a custody suit for Ava, forcing the two to remain in Brazil.

"We just want them both to come home safely," Linda Hadden, Shauna Hadden's mother, told ABC News. "We have no ill will towards anyone."

The legal battle that keeps Hadden's daughter and granddaughter in Brazil has been arduous and is reminiscent of the custody battle over Sean Goldman. In 2004, 6-year-old Sean's Brazilian-born mother divorced his father and flew Sean to Brazil from their New Jersey home. It wasn't until 2009 -- after an international custody battle, even after Sean's mother died in 2006 -- that Goldman was reunited with his father in New Jersey.

According to Hadden, Shauna and Donizete Machado have been divorced since 2009. "She has full custody of Ava. He lives in Brazil. Shauna planned a trip on May 21 where she would take Ava to visit her father and extended family in Brazil. We thought it was a great opportunity for Ava to learn about her heritage."

But when they got to Brazil, "Shauna got a call from a man who lived in Machado's town telling her not to come," Hadden said. "Her ex-husband was planning to take Ava from her."

So instead of traveling to see Machado, Shauna Hadden chose to go north and stay with friends.

"That's when Machado got angry. He and his sisters started sending my daughter nasty messages saying things like 'You're going to have to stay in Brazil forever.' So Shauna decided to take her return flight home," Hadden said.

But Machado, who had bought the plane tickets, cancelled them when Shauna Hadden arrived in Brazil, according to Hadden.

For her, Machado's actions have come as a surprise. "He seemed so enthusiastic and happy at the prospect of seeing Ava," Hadden said. "Shauna and Ava Skyped with him for months before the trip and he seemed like a grateful and polite person."

On June 6, Shauna Hadden discovered Machado not only wanted to see Ava but wanted custody of her as well.

"That day police showed up at the home where Shauna was staying. They had guns and demanded that they take Ava's passport. They said they were carrying out an order from a judge to get Ava's passport. Shauna was scared and didn't know what to do. She gave them Ava's passport and her own too," Hadden said.

Shauna Hadden then went to the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, where officials told her to get an attorney, which, according to Hadden, it took her 10 days to do.

Machado had filed a court order against Shauna Hadden in Brazilian court.

"At first he wanted immediate custody, which the court denied. Then he wanted someone to bring Ava to him, which the court also denied. Then he wanted a supervised visit with Ava, which the judge granted," Hadden said.

"But the problem is that he has not visited," she added.

ABC News has not yet been able to reach Machado or his attorneys.

Despite the ordeal, Shauna Hadden and her mother are still willing to meet Machado.

"Shauna always tried to maintain a relationship with Ava's father, because she felt like everyone deserves to have a father," Hadden said. "No matter what happens, he is Ava's family."

Shauna and Ava Hadden are now waiting for a response from Machado's lawyers, according to Hadden. He has until July 5 to visit Ava under the court-ordered supervised visit.

Hadden has been busy trying to keep up her daughter and granddaughter's spirits, sending "a box of Barbies, crayons, coloring books, and toys."

She said she hopes that the situation will be resolved before Shauna Hadden's tourist visa expires at the end of the summer. "We have been working with Senator Elizabeth Warren, our congressman, the State Department and the Brazilian government." (Warren's office and the U.S. Embassy in Brazil did not immediately return calls today for comment.)

In the meantime, Shauna Hadden has been gathering support on Facebook and in the media.

"Shauna speaks fluent Portuguese and was interviewed by Brazilian TV stations. We thought there would be some backlash against her but everybody was so supportive," Hadden explained.

Shauna Hadden's Facebook page, 'Trapped in Brazil,' has over 2,000 likes.

Right now, Hadden's biggest concern is Ava.

"I keep telling her, 'Remember your daddy loves you.' I don't want her to carry any hatred. I just want her to come home. Ava has a dog that misses her very much."

Shauna Hadden did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

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