According to Hague Convention, Brazil must release child to U.S. father

After a five year custody battle, American David Goldman is finally able to take his son out of Brazil and back to their home in New Jersey.

The controversy began when David Goldman’s Brazilian-born wife took their son Sean (who was 4 years old at the time) from the family’s home in New Jersey to Brazil, where she then divorced Goldman and remarried. She died last year in childbirth, and Sean’s stepfather (an attorney from a prominent Rio de Janeiro family of lawyers) has retained custody of Sean ever since. The Brazilian family argued that “authentically Brazilian” moral foundations would require Sean to remain in Brazil, and in the absence of the mother, the raising should be done by the grandmother.

On Tuesday, the Brazilian Court ruled the child should be with his biological father and returned to the USA. Both the US and Brazilian governments agreed that this matter falls clearly within the Hague Convention, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the courts in the country where a child originally lived – in this case, the United States.

The case has affected diplomatic ties between Brazil and the United States, as the U.S. State Department applied pressure for the boy to be returned. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have discussed the matter.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey reacted to the case by blocking renewal of a $2.75 billion trade deal that would remove U.S. tariffs on some Brazilian goods. He lifted the hold after Tuesday’s ruling and the U.S. Senate quickly passed the trade measure.

The Brazilian family’s lawyer, Sergio Tostes, recently said that he would like to see a negotiated settlement, noting that he wanted to end the damage being done to Sean and to U.S.-Brazil relations.

Goldman said negotiations were out of the question.

“This isn’t about a shared custody – I’m his dad, I’m his only parent,” Goldman said. “This isn’t a custody case – it’s an abduction case.”

Full summary of this story can be found here.

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