NJ dad seeks Brazil gov't backing in custody fight

AP News
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Posted: Dec 18, 2009 9:54 AM

A New Jersey man fighting for custody of his 9-year-old son has asked Brazil's attorney general to join his battle before the nation's Supreme Court, and officials said Friday they are studying the request.

Patricia Apy, David Goldman's U.S.-based lawyer, said they were asking the government to appeal a Supreme Court order issued Thursday that delayed Goldman's reunion with his son Sean, who was taken to Brazil five years ago.

A spokesman for the attorney general's office said the agency was studying the request.

"We're evaluating how to proceed in this matter. A decision could be made today, or it could take more time than that," an attorney general's spokesman said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the case.

Time is not on Goldman's side.

The Supreme Court goes into a two-month recess after Friday, and Apy acknowledged that getting the Court to act on the request before then would be "extremely difficult."

Goldman made a 12-hour flight to Brazil in hopes of recovering his son after a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Sean should be returned to him.

But only hours after he stepped off the plane on Thursday, the Supreme Court stayed that ruling, saying it first must decide whether courts should head the child's own testimony on where he would like to live.

That prompted Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey placed on hold a trade bill that would let Brazil and other countries export some products duty-free to the United States. He joins a string of other U.S. leaders, up to President Barack Obama, who have tried to sway Brazil to let Goldman regain his son.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, also added his weight by flying to Brazil to back Goldman.

Sergio Tostes, attorney for Sean's stepfather Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, said the case should never have become a political battle.

"This is not a fight between two countries," Tostes said. "This is just the pursuit of the truth and the pursuit of what is in the best interest of the boy."

Goldman's then-wife Bruna Bianchi took Sean to Brazil in 2004 and decided to stay. She divorced Goldman and remarried before dying while giving birth to a daughter last year.

The Bianchi's family celebrated Thursday's Supreme Court ruling and their attorney showed reporters a drawing he said Sean had made: "I want to stay in Brazil forever," it read in big, green lettering in Portuguese.

David Goldman called the ruling "ridiculous" and said he could not believe the Brazilian courts would "allow a child to remain separated from their only parent and try to turn that child against that parent."

He added that to "demand a 9-year-old, innocent ... psychologically damaged child to speak in a court is beyond cruel."

Unless the Supreme Court acts anew on Friday, the boy will be in Brazil at least until Feb. 1, following the justices' return from a recess, according to a court spokesman who commented on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the case.

In his decision, Justice Marco Aurelio Mello wrote that "at stake is a fully formed life. At stake is the right to come and go, the right of opinion, expression and human dignity."

Silvana Bianchi, Sean's maternal grandmother, told the private Agencia Estado news service she was elated with the decision. She said Sean, who has dual citizenship, says he wants to remain in Brazil.

"His testimony has never been heard," she said. "As a Brazilian citizen, he deserves it. He is a child of nearly 10 and he knows quite well what he wants."

Goldman has had little time with his child. He was reunited with Sean in February for the first time since his son was taken to Brazil and has not seen him since June.

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Associated Press writer Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, contributed to this report.