Brazilian Court Rules in Favor of Dad in High-Profile International Abduction Case

There apparently will be a happy ending for David Goldman, who fought a long, internationally-publicized battle to get his kidnapped son Sean returned to him from Brazil. A Brazilian court has ruled that the David should get custody of the 8-year-old, and ordered his immediate return. To their credit, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the U.S. House and Senate had called on Brazil to permit the boy”s return, and it was this international pressure which tilted the scales in David’s favor. But would they have gotten involved if the boy’s mother hadn’t died? Would David Goldman have been successful in a custody case against the child’s mother, instead of his stepfather?
It is unlikely. Fathers whose children have been taken to other states or countries surreptitiously and/or against court orders face a long, uphill battle to get them back. Authorities generally give them the cold shoulder and the police often don’t want to get involved. Fathers & Families hears from many fathers whose children have been taken away against court orders, and there are very few resources available to help. There are roughly 350,000 child abductions in the United States each year, most of them carried out by family members. According to the US Department of Justice, mothers and fathers abduct their children in equal numbers. Since custodial mothers outnumber custodial fathers four to one, custodial fathers are at a much higher risk of having their children abducted by noncustodial mothers than custodial mothers are of having their children abducted by noncustodial fathers. In either case, these situations are heart-wrenching. From the Associated Press’ Lawyer: NJ man wins custody of son taken to Brazil (6/1/09):

A federal court in Brazil has ruled that a New Jersey father should get custody of his 8-year-old son, whose mother took him to the South American nation after their divorce and died there, the man’s lawyer said Monday. Attorney Patricia Apy, who represents David Goldman, said she was notified of the decision Monday afternoon. The ruling calls for the boy to be turned over to his father on Wednesday, Apy said. The boy’s Brazilian mother took him to Brazil in 2004. She remarried and never returned to the United States. She died last year of complications from the birth of another child. Eight-year-old Sean Goldman was being raised by his stepfather. A Brazilian lawyer for the mother’s family said he will appeal the decision to return the boy. “Many times the boy has expressed his desire to stay in Brazil,” attorney Sergio Tostes told local Globo TV. “We are doing everything we can to see justice prevail.” A telephone for David Goldman, of Tinton Falls, rang unanswered Monday night. U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, intervened in Goldman’s case in February and traveled to Brazil with him. While Smith was there, Goldman was able to meet with his son for the first time in nearly five years. The case got high-level attention with international diplomatic overtones this spring when the U.S. House and Senate called on Brazil to permit the boy’s return, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the same request and the presidents of the U.S. and Brazil discussed the matter. Clinton said Goldman’s case is an example of a problem around the world. She said there were nearly 50 U.S. children in similar situations in Brazil who should be returned to the U.S. — and more around the world. Apy said Monday night that she had not received a copy of the Brazilian court decision but expected to get one and have it translated from Portuguese into English on Tuesday. The order calls for the boy’s immediate return, Apy said. “The court has made remarkable conditions to be able to facilitate that happening,” she said.

[Late note: A Brazilian court has suspended implementation of the order. What a surprise. Read CNN’s coverage here.]

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