Dad's Brazilian custody battle intensifies

December 12, 2008 9:08:32 PM PST
There was an emotional show of support Friday for a father from New Jersey who is caught in a nasty international custody battle over his 8-year-old son. His name is David Goldman, and his son is in Brazil. That's where the boy's mother died. He's now with her widower.

It is a complicated situation, and it's highly charged.

An official at the Brazilian consulate said that nothing should preclude Goldman from being reunited with his son, Sean. Taken at face value, that statement alone would appear to suggest that Goldman is closer to being with the son he hasn't had seen in four years.

But that's not how this case is playing out, as the international custody battle is only intensifying.

Outside the consulate in Midtown, a small group of protestors tried to get people passing by to pay attention to the international custody case that is pitting the 42-year-old dad against a Brazilian court system that could decide the fate of his U.S.-born son.

"It's crushing," Goldman said. "I will never give up bringing him home."

Four years ago, Sean's mother and David's wife, Bruna, left the U.S. for Brazil and never came back. She eventually re-married, without ever officially getting a divorce in the U.S. She allowed David the occasional phone call from his son.

Now, the custody fight has turned into a legal nightmare. Over the summer, the case took another unexpected turn when Bruna Goldman died. It left Sean in the care of his Brazilian step-father, a man who has so far defied court orders allowing David to visit his son.

"The problem in Brazil turns out to be it's judicial system," Leah Hill said.

Hill is a law professor who is an expert in custody cases. She says, according to the Hague Treaties, which is international law that Brazil has signed, the case is cut and dry in Goldman's favor.

"He has a rightful order of custody," she said. "From New Jersey, he should be able to go to Brazil to enforce that order."

But that's not what has happened, despite assurances from Brazilian government officials who tell Eyewitness News that, "They stand by the application of the Hague Convention, which gives Mr. Goldman custody."

But even with the Brazilian government's apparent support, the case remains in legal limbo.

According to the U.S. State Department, Brazil demonstrates patterns of non-compliance when it comes to recognizing the Hague Convention. Last year, U.S. officials say judges in Brazil showed a bias toward mothers and Brazilian citizens. That appears to be what Goldman is facing.


STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Pegues


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