A Brazilian supreme court justice on Tuesday suspended a court order granting immediate custody of a 9-year-old boy to his U.S. father, extending a multiyear battle that has reached the highest levels of both the Brazilian and U.S. governments.
The decision by Justice Marco Aurelio was in response to an emergency request filed by a small Brazilian political party that argued the boy should stay in Brazil and claimed that the family case has wrongly been turned into a political matter, the supreme court said on its Web site.
David Goldman, of Tinton Falls, N.J., had traveled to Brazil after a federal judge in Rio de Janeiro issued an order this week for his son Sean to be delivered to him Wednesday afternoon at the U.S. Consulate in Rio. The boy currently lives with his Brazilian stepfather.
Goldman told the TODAY Show it's frustrating that his son is being held in an "unhealthy environment.''
“I’ll never give up on my son,” Goldman said via satellite from Rio de Janeiro. “It’s not over.”
The justice's decision is not the last word: The Progressive Party's request must now be heard by the full court. No date has been set, and scheduling hearings before Brazil's highest court can take anywhere from days to months.
The boy's mother, Bruna, took him for a two-week vacation to her native Brazil in 2004 and never returned. She divorced David Goldman in Brazil and married Rio de Janeiro lawyer Joao Paulo Lins e Silva. She died last year of complications from the birth of another child.
The conservative Progressive Party, which filed the request with the court Wednesday afternoon, is one of many small Brazilian political parties allied with the leftist Workers Party of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The Progressive Party argued that the boy should not be returned to the United States in such an “abrupt manner.” It said he should stay in Brazil because he has been living in the country for five years and would be stripped of his current family environment of “happiness, love and comprehension,” the supreme court statement said.
The party also said the boy could suffer psychological damage because of the order to immediately put him in the care of his biological father, and that the outcome of the case reflected an interest in “prioritizing international relations over the fundamental rights of a Brazilian native” boy, the supreme court statement said.
Sergio Tostes, an attorney for the boy's Brazilian relatives, had filed a separate petition requesting a delay in the boy's handover to Goldman. He had criticized the judge's custody decision, received Tuesday, because it required immediate compliance.
There have been protests in Brazil urging authorities to allow the boy to remain with the Brazilian relatives he's lived with since he was 4.
Goldman has also developed an international support base, and protesters have rallied in support of him in the United States. The Web site bringseanhome.org celebrated news of the first judge's order granting him custody.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, was flying to Brazil Tuesday night to try to ensure that the previously ordered handover would go smoothly.
The case has received high-level attention. It took on international diplomatic overtones this spring when the U.S. Congress called on Brazil to permit the boy's return. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the same request and President Barack Obama discussed the matter with Silva when he visited Washington earlier this year.
Clinton brought up the subject Monday at a joint news conference in El Salvador with newly inaugurated Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes.
“It's taken a long time for this day to come, but we will work with the Goldman family and the Brazilian government with the goal of ensuring this young boy's return,” she said.