Brazil Sends International Custody Case Back to Appeals Court


Rio de Janeiro—Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court said this week that it could not rule in the case of a 9-year-old boy, whose custody is being disputed by both his American father and his Brazilian stepfather.

The unanimous vote by the Brazilian high court declared that they would not rule over The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Brazil is a signatory to that convention.

The case began in 2004 when Bruna Bianchi Carneiro Ribeiro, a Brazilian native, left New Jersey where she lived with her husband, David Goldman,. Ribeiro took the couple’s son, Sean Richard Goldman, to Brazil, allegedly for a two-week vacation. While there, however, she filed for divorce from Goldman and married a Brazilian lawyer. Several years later, she died while giving birth to a daughter. Sean Goldman currently lives in a sprawling home in Brazil with his stepfather and half-sister.

Sean’s father, David Goldman, who is a U.S. citizen, has been in a legal tussle over the boy’s custody ever since. He claims that his son was abducted, and that he has been denied visitation rights. Attorneys for the boy’s Brazilian relatives deny that Goldman has not been allowed to visit the child, and indeed allege that Goldman has never attempted to see the child, nor has he provided any support.

A conservative party in Brazil petitioned to suspend a lower court ruling that would have turned Sean Goldman over to the U.S. consulate, which would have then handed him over to his biological father. In the petition, they said that removing the boy from Brazil would cause undue psychological harm. Judge Marco Auerlio, a Supreme Federal Court judge, suspended that lower court order.

Goldman says, in opposition, that his son is suffering harm simply by being detained in Brazil. He also claims that the boy’s Brazilian relatives have turned the child against him.

The recent ruling by the Brazilian high court will send the case back to the Federal Appeals Court in Rio de Janeiro. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met with the foreign minister of Brazil to discuss the case, which has garnered attention on the international political scene.


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