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Brazil Court Halts Boy's Return to U.S.

U.S. David Goldman, right, talks to members of the media in Rio de Janeiro, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009. Goldman, a father who is having a legal fight to regain custody of his 9-year-old son living in Brazil with his grandparents after his Brazilian mother died, hopes to bring the boy to New Jersey in time for Christmas. Brazil's Supreme Court on Thursday delayed the return of the boy to his father. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
AP Photo/Felipe Dana
He went to Brazil in hopes of getting his son back, but American David Goldman was disappointed again.

David Goldman has spent more than five years trying to gain custody of his nine-year-old son, Sean, who was taken to Brazil in 2004 by Goldman's then-wife Bruna Bianchi. She decided to stay, divorced Goldman and remarried, before dying while giving birth to a daughter last year.

On Thursday he arrived in Rio, looking weary and cautious but hoping to finally return to the United States with his son after a federal court ruled Wednesday that the boy had to be turned over.

But the Supreme Court suspended that decision just four hours after Goldman landed, deciding the boy must remain in Brazil pending a motion to hear the child testify on where he wants to live.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey responded by placing on hold a trade bill that would benefit Brazil and other countries to export some products duty-free to the United States.

David Goldman wanted to bring his son back home to New Jersey for Christmas. But the new court ruling makes his wish impossible.

Goldman's attorney believes there is still hope that Brazil's high court will say Sean Goldman must be returned to the U.S.; the only question that remains is, when?

"He is exhausted. He was expecting the worst, and is beginning to feel that this is happening all over again," his American attorney, Patricia Apy, told CBS News.

Apy said even though there have now been repeated court decisions in Goldman's favor, Sean's Brazilian family is desperate to keep the child, reports CBS news correspondent Manuel Gallegus.

An appeal filed by the family on Thursday was honored by the Brazilian Supreme Court - keeping Sean in Brazil until the court decides whether he should testify.

"What is horrid is that they are placing this child in a situation of harm by continuing to drag out the uncertainty and the pain in his life rather than reuniting him with his father," said Apy.

Sean's testimony has never been heard, and David Goldman believes his son should not take the stand.

He added that to "demand a 9-year-old, innocent, vulnerable, psychologically damaged child to speak in a court is beyond cruel."

A lawyer for the Brazilian family tells CBS News it's time for both parties to talk. If Brazil's high court recesses today without taking action, Sean will stay in Brazil until at least February, following the justices' return from a recess.

The Brazilian family celebrated, and their lawyer produced for reporters a drawing he said Sean had made: "I want to stay in Brazil forever," it read in big, green lettering in Portuguese.

But Goldman called the ruling "ridiculous" and said he could not believe the Brazilian courts would "allow a child to remain separated from their only parent and try to turn that child against that parent."

"We're studying the decision and we'll decide what to do soon," said Goldman's lawyer Ricardo Zamariola.

The case has gained attention at the highest levels.

President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have all urged the child's return, and a U.S. congressman traveled to Rio on Thursday to continue lobbying on behalf of Goldman.

In his decision, Justice Marco Aurelio Mello wrote that "at stake is a fully formed life. At stake is the right to come and go, the right of opinion, expression and human dignity."

Mello told reporters afterward that the Supreme Court will now "question the necessity of Sean, the boy, who is almost 10-years-old, to be heard directly by a judge."

Silvana Bianchi, Sean's maternal grandmother, told the private Agencia Estado news service she was elated with the decision. According to her, Sean, who has dual citizenship, says he wants to remain in Brazil.

"His testimony has never been heard," she said. "As a Brazilian citizen, he deserves it. He is a child of nearly 10 and he knows quite well what he wants."

Sergio Tostes, attorney for Sean's stepfather, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, said the case should never have reached the political levels it has.

"This is not a fight between two countries," Tostes said. "This is just the pursuit of the truth and the pursuit of what is in the best interest of the boy."

Goldman and Sean were reunited in February for the first time since his son was taken to Brazil. They have not seen each other since June.