By Daniel Tosca, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – David Goldman arrived in Rio last Thursday, December 17th, hoping that last week’s ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals, for custody of his son Sean to be granted within 48 hours, be the last in a series of delays and appeals that have kept him from his son since 2004.
By the time he arrived that hope had already been dashed, yet another chapter in a story that’s gone on for about 5 years and has been avidly followed as a real life soap opera by thousands of Brazilians and Americans.
In an indication of the case’s complexities, last Wednesday’s decision by a Regional Federal Tribunal to hand over Sean to his father was overturned, and his permanence in Brazil required until the final word of the trial is heard. When that may be is still uncertain, but David Goldman arrived in Rio still hopeful of a swift solution. At the time of going to press, Monday’s expected verdict from Presiding Jusitice Gilmar Mendes had yet to arrive.
The delays stem from the criss-crossing jurisdiction of several layers of authority to which Sean’s Brazilian Grandmother and the Stepfather have been launching appeals. Injunctions may be granted at State, Federal and Supreme Court level, all of who will want to proceed carefully in such a high profile case.
In a letter published by O Globo newspaper, the Grandmother Silva Bianchi appealed in writing to President Lula to uphold the Brazilian tradition of Grandmother as the next in line to a mother for taking care of the family, and has called for the best interests of the boy to be heard from his own mouth. The lawyer for the Grandmother also went so far as to condemn the actions of the American Embassy for interfering in ‘the internal affairs of Brazil.
On June 16, 2004 David Goldman took his Brazilian wife Bruna and their son Sean to Newark Airport for a trip to Brazil to visit her family. Shortly after arriving in her native country, she is said to have called David to announce the end of their relationship and her intention to get custody of their son.
After a four year struggle to see his son, Bruna’s death during childbirth on August 22, 2008 led David to believe that custody of his son was imminent, however Bruna’s new husband Joao Paulo Lins e Silva has since filed for custody, as has Bruna’s mother, Sean’s grandmother.
The story sits somewhat uncomfortably in a country that prides itself on protection of minors. As anyone who has tried to take their own child on a short bus ride out of the city can attest, the present dangers of kidnapping are keenly observed and countered in Brazil. Without proper documentation, including notarized signatures if only one parent is traveling with child, passage will simply be refused.
All of which makes it even more remarkable that the Brazilian Court system continues to prolong the situation despite their inclusion in an 81 signature-strong international treaty condemning illegal retention of a minor overseas. Also adding to the pressure are direct appeals by President Barack Obama and Senator Clinton – and major international trade agreements.