- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 23, 2009

UPDATED:

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Brazilian family has decided to end its legal fight for custody of a 9-year-old boy and will obey a court order to turn him over to his U.S. father, an aide to the family’s lawyer said Wednesday.

“It is certain the family will not pursue any more legal channels,” the aide to lawyer Sergio Tostes said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter.

Mr. Tostes, reached by telephone, referred inquiries to his office.

The decision ends a five-year legal fight by David Goldman to regain custody of his son, Sean.

Earlier Wednesday, a federal court in Rio ordered the family to relinquish Sean to Mr. Goldman by 9 a.m. (6 a.m. EST) Thursday.

Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican, who is in Brazil to support Mr. Goldman, said Mr. Goldman’s lawyers believe Brazil’s federal police are authorized to remove the child physically from the family if it does not meet the court deadline. He also said the international police agency Interpol had been notified to make sure Sean was not flown out of Brazil.

“David and his team are encouraged that the nightmare is coming to an end,” Mr. Smith said. “No more delays. It’s time to do this.”

Neither Mr. Goldman nor the Brazilian family commented immediately.

Mr. 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 Mr. Goldman’s ex-wife took him to her native country in 2004. Last year she died in childbirth.

Since he landed in Brazil last week, Mr. Goldman repeatedly has said that until he and Sean are on a plane and it is heading toward the United States, he will not let his guard down.

“When? When? When will Sean and I be able to go home, father and son?” Mr. Goldman asked in an interview aired Wednesday morning on the U.S. television network NBC.

Both the U.S. and Brazilian governments have said the matter clearly fell under the Hague Convention, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the courts in the country where a child originally lived — in this case, the United States.

But Christopher Schmidt, a St. Louis-based attorney with Bryan Cave LLP, said the Brazilian court system utterly failed in this case.

“The critical lesson from this tragic story is to not permit these child abduction cases to spiral into protracted custody disputes, as happened in Brazil,” he said. “While Brazil finally made the right decision, Brazil breached its fundamental obligation to decide the abduction case expeditiously.”

Silvana Bianchi, Sean’s maternal grandmother, wrote an open letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva just hours before the Tuesday ruling, in which she said cultural differences and international pressure were driving the case.

“Our moral foundation values the mother’s role. In the absence of the mother, the raising should be done by the grandmother,” she wrote. “That’s how it’s done in Brazil, from north to south, regardless of race, religion or social class. It’s natural that foreigners, with a different foundation, would not understand these authentically Brazilian feelings.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Goldman has said his parents and other relatives have been waiting for years to be reunited with Sean.

Associated Press Writers Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, N.J.; Tales Azzoni in Sao Paulo; and AP Television News producer Flora Charner contributed to this report.

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