A federal appeals court in Rio de Janeiro is expected to rule Wednesday on whether a 9-year-old boy living in Brazil should be returned to his father in New Jersey, but even a ruling in favor of the father may not lead to the boy's quick return.
David Goldman's struggle to gain custody of his son, Sean, has gotten the attention of President Obama, Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But even with political support and several court victories, Goldman has not been able to bring his son back.
This time, his lawyer says, Goldman is remaining in New Jersey because there's a chance that appeals could scuttle even a favorable ruling.
"There's a huge difference between favorable and returning home," said the lawyer, Patricia Apy.
The saga began in 2004, when David Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took then-4-year-old 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 was divorced there and remarried. Last year, she died giving birth to a daughter.
Goldman, a former model who now has a fishing charter business, had already been seeking his son's return under an international treaty that covers cross-border child abductions. Bianchi's death generated more interest.
The case has been discussed this year by top level diplomats in Brasilia and Washington, and has been the subject of Congressional hearings in the U.S. and protests in both countries.
Both Goldman and members of his wife's family, including her second husband, have appeared on television talk shows to make their case. The boy has dual citizenship and his maternal grandmother said Sean wanted to stay in Rio de Janeiro.
The biggest legal development came June 1, when a judge on the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled that Sean should be returned to his father. The return was halted by a slew of appeals, all but one of which have been settled.
A Brazilian federal appeals court is expected to rule Wednesday on whether the Supreme Court decision was the right one.
Goldman and his son met in February for the first time since the child was taken to Brazil, but they have not seen each other since June. The mother's family had security guards and heavy surveillance during the meetings between father and son.
"David just won't put him in that situation just for the sake of seeing him,'' she said.