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December 22nd, 2009
05:08 PM ET

The battle for Sean Goldman: The view from Brazil

David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his 9-year-old son, Sean.

David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his 9-year-old son, Sean.

Andrew Downie
Time

There are few winners in the case of Sean Goldman, the 9-year old boy at the center of a custody battle between his American father and Brazilian stepfather. But the losers are easy to spot, starting with common sense. More worryingly for Brazil, a growing nation desperate to be taken seriously on the world stage, is the damage being done to its image.

One of the reasons foreign investment in Brazil has risen so significantly over the last few years is that Brazilian law is relatively solid. Unlike neighbors Venezuela or Bolivia, for example, foreign companies in Brazil do not fear that the goalposts will be moved in the middle of the game or that powerful interests will tear up agreements. Brazilian lawyers said Sean Goldman's stepfather, João Lins e Silva, has diligently followed due process in his attempt to retain custody of his late wife's son. (She died in childbirth earlier this year.) But there is still a sense that the already slow legal system is being swayed, in part, by money and influence. Sean's stepfather's family, the Lins e Silvas, is well known in Brazilian legal circles and they have so far used the system skillfully to retain custody of the child.

"The Brazilian family are respected lawyers and they understand the situation and they know what steps they can legitimately take within the system here," said a U.S. official familiar with the case. "But what we need to make clear is that the Government of Brazil is in agreement for his return [to his biological father]. We need to work through the legal system so the Brazilian government can enforce the return." Indeed, David Goldman had flown to Rio de Janeiro to pick up his son after a federal court in Brazil ruled he had legal custody of the boy, only to be greeted by news that a Supreme Court judge had decided to halt the procedure, declaring that the boy himself had to testify about where he preferred to live.

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Filed under: Parenting
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. maria

    I'm been follow this story for a very long time and can't believe he still doesn't have his son yet..It's common sense that Sean belongs to his dad which is David Goldman..Sean has his dad's blood not his stepfather..This story really upset me for god sake gave his son back..Mr. Goldman you and your son are always in my prayers..Family comes first..Weak up Hague Convention.

    December 22, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  2. Cristiane F Tumbry

    Im praying that Sean will come back to the US with his father! being a Brazilian myself with an American husband, I can relate to this case or at least to why the wife left! Im on Mr. Goldman's size 100% and I think that what the Brazilian family is doing is worsening the situation even more! Sean should have been returned to his dad right after his mother passed! My prayers are with Mr. Goldman and Sean!

    December 22, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  3. steve- virginia beach, va

    This is an abduction case, not a custody case. And it's dragged on too long. Any country with laws saying that a non-relative i.e. stepfather's parental rights superceede a father's rights needs to seriously evolve.

    December 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm |
  4. Sashia

    I'm ecstatic over the ruling, but remember, David has won 2 times before and Sean is still not home.

    I hope the grandmother, who has been behind this all along, will finally realize, a child belongs with his parent and hand him over without theatrics, like the ones we've seen on T.V. Its time for her to think of Sean, and not her feelings of loss of her daughter.The harm that family has done, is unthinkable.If grandparents around the world decided they wanted to raise their grandchildren and started filing for custody, imagine what would happen. I'm so amazed at the character of David, Sean's father, who never ONCE slung MUD, the way the stepfather and the psuedo-grandfather did in this case. It is obvious that there is no family connection there. They are powerful businessmen, conducting business and refuse to lose at anything..
    I can't believe the stepfather, releasing details, true or not, of intimacy between David and Bruna to the public in an effort to gain sympathy for his cause(which totally backfired). I'm sure he was well aware that time would put those things in front of Sean. Guess that sums up his feelings about the boy who is "just like a real son" to him. And lastly, I hope the international exposure of the ability to "buy" a court decision, and a boy, has done something to help the average citizen of Brazil, who do not have 6 million (yes 6 million hits/posts/blogs/articles on Google) people pulling for them when they don't have enough money to "buy" justice.

    December 22, 2009 at 8:22 pm |
  5. Carla Lohr

    This child should be returned now. I don't understand the legal limbo when the child only has one surviving natural parent. What case does the stepfather have? Why isn't he being charged with unlawfully holding the child?

    December 22, 2009 at 8:20 pm |
  6. Julie

    "Brazilians cannot understand why David Goldman did not visit his son for several years."

    A father is someone who commits to raising the child, looking out for the child's interests, and providing economic support for the child. A "real" father commits to "being there" for the kid.

    That's why the Brazilian man is the "real" father here. Biology has nothing to do with it.

    Goldman thinks that just because he donated some sperm he can treat this child like a piece of property – something to own.

    Ask the child who he wants to live with. I'm betting he'll want to stay with his "real father" – in Brazil.

    December 22, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  7. Tammy, Houma, LA

    Good to hear that father and son will reunite permanently. What a gift for the Goldman family!

    December 22, 2009 at 6:54 pm |
  8. A. Smith, Oregon

    Brazil like many other 'democratic' country's makes it difficult to hand over its children to foreign family members. That is true in America also.

    It appears the judge holding up the transfer has received the monetary favors he was seeking and the mothers family there in Brazil have fewer court appeal options if they wish to continue their appeals to retain rights over this young boy in Brazil.

    America's court system is ripe with graft and utter corruption, we shouldn't portray American's courts as a shining example of fair and balanced justice in the very faces of our American neighbors and friendly nations in Europe.

    December 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm |
  9. Su from Fort Lee, NJ

    I was hoping that the chief justice of Brazil was akin to King Solomon who tested the true love of a parent by his willingness to give the child up rather than to divide it in half...David Goldman is no hero in this case b/c he is NOT thinking about what is BEST for his son...His son will be brought back to US surrounded by the media frenzy and a father who seems to care more about winning than thinking what is in the best interest of his son. Sean will have to start school in 4th grade, not knowing anyone at his new school, falling behind in school lessons, leaving his friends and his new "family" behind...I can't help but see a life of drug abuse, simmering hate towards his father and suffering from post traumatic stress...I just hope his maternal grandmother will follow Sean.

    December 22, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  10. Teresa

    If they don't give Sean back to his biological father then anyone with any shred of human decency should boycott Brazil. Our government needs to yank all the millions of dollars we give to that country so the Brazilian government will know that it's not OK for them to continue to sponsor this kidnapping. With the olympics coming up in Rio, I hope that country loses millions. I still believe that there are a lot of human beings out there who know right from wrong unlike the the judge who held up the hearing and the stepfather and his family. No morals and no class!!!

    December 22, 2009 at 6:23 pm |
  11. Silvia Alice Botelho

    As a Brazilian I cannot stand anymore the manipulations the influential Brazilian family is doing in the Brazilian justice to keep Sean Goldman away from his father David Goldman. I hope the Supreme makes the right decision – for a change.

    December 22, 2009 at 6:05 pm |
  12. Texas

    RETURN THE CHILD TO HIS FATHER!!!
    It's that simple!!!!!
    How can these people hold him hostage and Brazil stand behind that? They are holding an American child hostage and allowing that family to damage him mentally. Here in America they would be put on trial!!!!
    Stay strong David! Stay strong and fight for what is yours!!!
    God be with you and hopefully bring you the best Christmas present ever this year. Sean....

    December 22, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  13. Jeanette

    This is just not right for kidnappers to be able to hold a child legally from his father. This family is nothing but criminals who have money and know the laws of their country and are buying this child who was kidnapped. Brazil should be ashamed of their country for doing this. The real law is the Hague Convention that they agreed to.

    December 22, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  14. Brian G. (Canada)

    I am amazed why the stepfather would think he has the right to adopt the child. There is no indication there is any reason why Mr. Goldman should not have his son. He appears to be a decent honest and sincere individual. The Brazilian family do not come across as decent honest and sincere. Is Brazil still 3rd world? I am amazed.

    December 22, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  15. Chris, Ohio

    From what I understand, Sean's mother took him on a "visit" to relatives in Brazil, during which she divorced her American husband and married a Brazilian citizen. Was Sean's father denied visitation during the years he was not in contact with his son? Reports have said the father has been trying for years to get his child back. I do not understand how a family with NO biological ties to this child are able to prevent him from returning to his natural father. If the father has been prevented from seeing his son, he most likely does not have a positive relationship with him. Odds are the step-father's family have filled him with untrue facts about why his natural father has not seen him. It is entirely possible that due to the lack of a relationship with his father and untruths told by the step-father and his family, Sean will say in court that he wants to stay with his step-father's family. That would be true travesty of justice!

    Time to bring political and economic pressure to the case!

    December 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  16. Claudette

    The mother took the child out of the country and refused to return him. That is abduction. The mother then dies and the co-abductor gets to keep the child in this foreign country. He has no biological ties to this child nor current marital ties to his mother. The child should have been immediately returned to the U.S, and to his biological father. What stops anyone from taking a small child off the street of the US and into Brazil with a fake birth certificate only to be given immunity for abduction and receive eventual custody of the child?

    It's not really very different.

    December 22, 2009 at 4:05 pm |
  17. Jorge Rio

    I am a brasilian, but it doesn´t change my pount of view, Sean has a real father, who has all the rights in the world to bring his son Sean home!

    I am ashamed of my legal sistem! And afraid of depending on it!

    December 22, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  18. Margot Quinn

    ABSOLUTELY...BOYCOTT BRAZIL!!!!
    Father and son should be together IMMEDIATELY!!!!
    PRAYERS!

    December 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm |
  19. Patricia

    Just let the child come to where he wants to be..with his father. What is so difficult to understand he is an American citizen and he has been abducted. Along with Iran, Brazil is a country that abducts American citizens. Time to let the boy come home.

    December 22, 2009 at 3:51 pm |
  20. Ellen

    One wonders if a 9 year-old boy should testify as to where he prefers to live–he's probably lived with the Brazilian family for years and may not know his American father as well, and then he would naturally lean toward the familiar Brazilian family over his natural father. Perhaps the judge should let him live with his American father until he is older, then asked where he'd like to live. I'm not sure about the actual age, but I think in America after a child is 14 he/she is allowed to live with whichever parent he/she wants in the case of a custody case in a divorce.

    December 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm |
  21. Isabel Siaba

    Justice in Brazil still have many shortcomings, many points to be mature. I hope that this case is not an example of weaknesses and that the right decision will be taken within the legal process.

    December 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  22. Heather, Socal

    I don't know what so difficult for the Brazillian family or the court to understand. Brazil signed onto the Hague Convention. Its a no brainer. She abducted him . The courts own appointed child psychologists said he wants to be with his dad. My home is boycotting all products from Brazil along with many others. You can't pick and choose the laws you want to honor. The fact that this has gone on for soo long is just wrong.

    December 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  23. Isabel Siaba

    I am Brazilian and I think this is the right decision!
    The child should stay with the father. The father has rights over a child.
    I just hope Sean Goldman have peace and be happy .... either the USA or in Brazil!

    December 22, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  24. Linda Keller

    If he is not returned today I say we put some tough sanctions in place against Brazil!

    December 22, 2009 at 3:20 pm |