Rio de Janeiro — David Goldman’s bitter five-year battle to regain custody of his son neared conclusion Wednesday, when the child’s Brazilian family halted its legal efforts as a court-ordered deadline for delivering the boy loomed.
Goldman has said repeatedly that until he is on a plane heading to the U.S. with 9-year-old Sean at his side, he would not feel relief. But with a court ordering the boy’s handover this morning at the U.S. Consulate, the end appeared to be in sight.
Goldman’s fight against a powerful family of Rio de Janeiro lawyers — a David vs. Goliath matchup in a nation where the wealthy are used to coming out on top — shifted in recent months, legally and among ordinary Brazilians.
The case was once largely viewed through a nationalistic lens. But with Goldman’s persistent fighting it has come to be seen on talk shows and in neighborhood bars as a dad simply trying to be with his son.
Which is how Goldman has always framed it.
“Sean is my family, Sean is my son. It is our right to be together, not just a rule of law, not just a treaty, not he’s Brazilian, not he’s American, not he’s from anywhere. He’s my son and I should be able to raise my son and he should know his dad,” Goldman said this week.
Goldman, of Tinton Falls, N.J., won a big legal victory late Tuesday when Brazil’s chief justice upheld a lower court’s ruling that ordered Sean returned to him. Sean has lived in Brazil since Goldman’s ex-wife, Bruna Bianchi, took him to her native country for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation in 2004. Last year she died in childbirth.
Sean’s stepfather, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, has continued the fight, winning temporary custody in Brazil of the boy. He looked prepared to keep him in the family’s massive compound with multiple buildings surrounded by tropical trees, a large wall and gate where expensive SUVs pass through and security guards keep 24-hour watch.
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.