Brazil's Supreme Court has delayed the return of 9-year-old boy to his U.S. father.
Thursday's ruling by Justice Marco Aurelio Mello agrees with a petition by the boy's Brazilian family that he remain in Brazil until the court decides whether the boy's own testimony should be heard in the case.
The ruling suspends a Wednesday judgment by a lower court ordering that David Goldman be given custody of his son, Sean.
Because the Court goes into recess tomorrow, a ruling on whether the boy's testimony should be heard is not likely before February.
The boy will remain in Brazil at least until then.
Goldman, of New Jersey, had arrived in Brazil one more time Thursday, hoping he was hours from a successful end to a five-year fight for custody of his son, who has lived in Brazil since 2004 with relatives of his now-deceased wife.
Dressed in black, Goldman stepped off a flight from New York into a large scrum of reporters at Rio's international airport.
Facing the crowd of cameras and microphones, he looked blank, uttered a few quiet words and appeared every inch a man exhausted — from a flight, the custody fight and the chance that, one more time, a last-minute appeal will keep him from taking his boy back to New Jersey.
But Goldman's own attorney had warned earlier that additional appeals could block the hand-over of his son, Sean -- which a federal court had set for Friday at the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro.
"The hand-over can be halted,'' said Ricardo Zamariola, Goldman's attorney, ominously referring to the Supreme Court appeal by the family that now has custody of the boy.
"I hope I can go home with my son," Goldman quietly told reporters.
Asked if he thought this might be the last of many trips to Brazil in pursuit of his son, he said: "I hope so."
The case has reached the highest levels of government in the U.S. and Brazil. 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 for Sean's return.
A federal court in Rio on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling and ordered Sean to be handed over to Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, by Friday afternoon at the U.S. Consulate.
The case has sparked protests and raw emotions for both sides in the U.S. and Brazil.
At the airport, an unidentified Brazilian woman in the crowd screamed at Goldman as he arrived: "Leave your son here because he is happy! Don't take him away. You will regret it later; he doesn't know anyone in New Jersey."
Goldman showed no reaction to the woman's shout and was led by military police to a black SUV and on to a hotel in the beach neighborhood of Copacabana.
In 2004, Goldman's then-wife, Bruna Bianchi, took Sean to her native Brazil.
Goldman says it was to be a two-week vacation, but she stayed and so did the boy. She eventually obtained a Brazilian divorce from Goldman and remarried.
Goldman was already seeking his son's return under an international treaty that covers cross-border child abductions when his former wife died last year giving birth to a daughter.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who has been supportive of Goldman's fight and raised it in Congress, said upon landing in Rio that this case fell under international law and that the boy had been illegally taken away from Goldman.
"Child abduction is a serious crime, and now for over five years David has been trying to get his son," Smith said. "We hope this is the end game and that he'll be reunited with his only father, and that's David Goldman."
But Goldman's own attorney warned that additional appeals could block the transfer.
"The hand-over can be halted," said Ricardo Zamariola, Goldman's attorney, referring to a possible Supreme Court appeal by the family that now has custody of the boy.
Previous rulings favorable to Goldman have been scuttled by Brazilian courts. Zamariola said he was certain lawyers for Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, the Brazilian stepfather with whom Sean lives, would appeal Wednesday's federal court ruling to surrender the boy. Zamariola said he did not expect a final resolution until at least the first half of 2010.
The stepfather's attorney, Sergio Tostes, declined to comment.
The boy's maternal grandmother says Sean wants to stay in Rio and has filed a separate petition with the Supreme Court asking that the boy's desires be considered. A similar request from the Brazilian family was denied earlier this year.
The child, who has dual citizenship, has been shielded from speaking directly to the news media.
Goldman and Sean were reunited in last February for the first time since his son was taken to Brazil. But they have not seen each other since June.