RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A Brazilian family delivered a 9-year-old boy to his American father in Brazil on Thursday, ending a five-year custody battle.
Sean Goldman was brought into the U.S. consulate by several of his Brazilian relatives, making it into the compound’s front door as scores of reporters and cameramen tried to get close. His father, David Goldman of Tinton Falls, New Jersey, was waiting for him inside.
Sean cried as his stepfather and family lawyer tried to get him through the scrum of journalists in front of the consulate. Guards had to violently push back photographers and TV cameramen.
The boy carried his luggage and wore a yellow shirt with the Brazilian flag and Olympic rings underneath.
He didn’t say anything as he was led from a black SUV across the street to the consulate. His maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, said in tears simply that “this is a very difficult moment.”
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who was in Brazil with Goldman, said on NBC’s “Today” show that once Sean was inside the consulate, he met with his father in a private conference room. Smith said they talked about basketball.
“There’s going to be some moments, but David is absolutely thrilled,” Smith said.
A little more than an hour after the reunion, they were en route to an airport, and they were expected to fly to the United States home within hours.
Bianchi wanted to travel with Sean to the United States to help in the transition, but family lawyer Sergio Tostes said her wish was denied by the American government. Tostes said he had asked the Brazilian government to intervene but authorities said the decision had to be respected.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Orna Blum said the U.S. government and consulate were not involved in the travel arrangements, which she said were handled by lawyers on both sides.
Goldman’s New Jersey-based lawyer, Patricia Apy, criticized how the handover was conducted.
“Unfortunately, the Brazilian family, rather than have the handoff take place in a garage, which would have been secure, parked away and walked him through the press, which only serves to make the situation more stressful for the child,” Apy said.
Blum also said the tumult during the boy’s delivery could have been avoided.
“The family was offered the same access to the consulate as the father,” she said. “For whatever reason they chose to get out of their cars and walk in.”
Goldman won a big legal victory late Tuesday when Brazil’s chief justice upheld a lower court’s ruling that ordered Sean returned to him.
The Brazilian family said Wednesday it was dropping legal challenges to rulings giving custody to Goldman. But the New Jersey man said repeatedly that until he was on a plane heading to the U.S. with Sean at his side, he would not feel relief.
The Brazilian family brought the boy to the consulate about 25 minutes before the 9 a.m. (1100 GMT) court-ordered deadline.
Sean has lived in Brazil since Goldman’s ex-wife, Bruna Bianchi, brought him to her native country for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation in 2004.
Bruna Bianchi stayed, divorced Goldman and remarried, and Goldman began legal efforts to get back Sean.
Last year Bianchi died in childbirth, but her husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, continued the legal fight, winning temporary custody.
Lins e Silva, a prominent divorce attorney in his father’s family law firm, used all legal means available to keep the boy in Brazil. Despite numerous court rulings in favor of Goldman, Lins e Silva continuously found an appeal route that delayed a handover.
Goldman’s fight was against a powerful family of Rio de Janeiro lawyers in a nation where the wealthy are used to coming out on top.