(AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
RIO DE JANEIRO (CBS/AP) Just in time for the holidays, David Goldman and his 9-year-old son, Sean, left Brazil and are now on a charter plane headed back to America after a 5-year international custody battle kept the New Jersey dad from his son.
(AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
David and Sean Goldman took off about three hours after the boy was handed over by his Brazilian family, said Rep. Chris Smith, who was in Brazil to support the U.S. father.
David Goldman has been seperated from his son since 2004 when his wife, Bruna Bianchi, took Sean to her native Brazil and never returned. She remarried and last year died during child birth. Her family and new husband, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, have been taking care of the child. All along, David Goldman has been fighting in the Brazilian courts to regain custody. That battle ended Tuesday when a Brazlian Supreme Court Justice ruled in his favor.
Earlier Thursday, Sean was escorted by his Brazilian relatives to the U.S. Consulate, where a scrum of journalists tried to get close. His father was waiting for him inside.
The boy cried as his stepfather and family lawyer tried to get him through the crowd, and guards roughly pushed back photographers and TV cameramen.
His maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, said in tears simply that "this is a very difficult moment."
It's the culmiation of a dramatic 5-year legal tug-of-war between Goldman and Sean's stepfath, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, a powerful Rio de Janeiro lawyer who used all legal means available to keep Sean.
Despite numerous court findings in favor of Goldman, Lins e Silva continuously found a way to delay giving up custody.
But after a mountain of rulings and appeals, a Supreme Court Justice ruled Tuesday that Sean be returned to Goldman. On Wednesday, the Brazilian family dropped its legal challenges.
Rep. Smith said Sean appeared to be happy when he and his father were reunited, and he had already spoken with his grandparents back in New Jersey.
"Once he was with his dad they were smiling, with their arms around one another," Smith said. "They looked just like best buddies."
A little more than an hour later, they left the consulate for the airport.
Silvana Bianchi, the maternal grandmother, had wanted to travel with Sean to the United States to ease his transition, but family lawyer Sergio Tostes said that wish was denied by the U.S. government. Tostes said the Brazilian government declined to intervene in the matter.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Orna Blum said the U.S. government and the 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."
The Brazilian family brought the boy to the consulate about 25 minutes before the 9 a.m. (1100 GMT) court-ordered deadline.
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