Boy finally reunited with American dad in Brazil
December 24, 2009
RIO DE JANEIRO – A New Jersey man and his 9-year-old son were reunited Thursday in Brazil after a 5-year international custody battle, and immediately headed home to spend Christmas in the United States.
David Goldman and his son, Sean, left on a charter plane about three hours after the boy was handed over by his Brazilian family, said Rep. Chris Smith, who was in Brazil to support the U.S. father.
Earlier, carrying his luggage and wearing a yellow shirt with the Brazilian flag and Olympic rings, Sean was escorted by his relatives to the U.S. Consulate, where a scrum of journalists tried to get close. His father, of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, was waiting for him inside.
The boy cried as his stepfather and family lawyer tried to get him through the crowd, and guards roughly pushed back photographers and TV cameramen.
His maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, said in tears simply that "this is a very difficult moment."
Sean has lived in Brazil since Goldman's ex-wife, Bruna Bianchi, brought him to her native country for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation in 2004. She stayed, divorced Goldman and remarried, and Goldman began legal efforts to get Sean back.
After Bianchi died last year in childbirth, her husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a prominent divorce attorney, continued the legal fight and won temporary custody.
The tug-of-war pitted Goldman against a powerful family of Rio de Janeiro lawyers willing to use all legal means available, in a nation where the wealthy are used to coming out on top
Despite numerous court findings in favor of Goldman, Lins e Silva continuously found an a way to delay giving up custody.
But after five years of rulings and appeals, Supreme Court chief ruled Tuesday that Sean be returned to Goldman. On Wednesday, the Brazilian family dropped its legal challenges.
Rep. Smith said Sean appeared to be happy when he and his father were reunited, and he had already spoken with his grandparents back in New Jersey.
"Once he was with his dad they were smiling, with their arms around one another," Smith said. "They looked just like best buddies."
A little more than an hour later, they left the consulate for the airport.
Silvana Bianchi, the maternal grandmother, had wanted to travel with Sean to the United States to ease his transition, but family lawyer Sergio Tostes said that wish was denied by the U.S. government. Tostes said the Brazilian government declined to intervene in the matter.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Orna Blum said the U.S. government and the consulate were not involved in the travel arrangements, which she said were handled by lawyers on both sides.
Goldman's New Jersey-based lawyer, Patricia Apy, criticized how the handover was conducted.
"Unfortunately, the Brazilian family, rather than have the handoff take place in a garage, which would have been secure, parked away and walked him through the press, which only serves to make the situation more stressful for the child," Apy said.
Blum also said the tumult during the boy's delivery could have been avoided.
"The family was offered the same access to the consulate as the father," she said. "For whatever reason they chose to get out of their cars and walk in."
The Brazilian family brought the boy to the consulate about 25 minutes before the 9 a.m. (1100 GMT) court-ordered deadline.
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Associated Press writers Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo and Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, contributed to this report.
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