Compassion and the Boy From Brazil

The Brazilian Supreme Court has delayed the return of a 9-year-old boy to his American father.

The court, in effect, ruled that no action can be taken until the boy himself testifies as to his wishes.

It’s a sad situation. And, clearly, this child is at the mercy of lawyers and judges. His welfare is at stake -- and the grownups making the decision seem less concerned about that than scoring legal points.

This story began five years ago when David Goldman’s son, Sean, was taken to Brazil by his mother, Brune Bianchi, a native, for what was supposed to be a two-week vacation.

She stayed and ultimately got a divorce and remarried. Goldman, a citizen of New Jersey, has been fighting to recover his son in Brazil’s courts for the last five years -- most recently under an international treaty forbidding cross-border child abductions. His wife died last year while giving birth to a daughter.

Goldman has been bounced around from court to court. He arrived in Brazil expecting to pick up his son on Friday at the American consulate in Rio De Janeiro, as an appeals court had ruled. But then the Supreme Court imposed a delay.

The boy’s maternal grandmother is fighting to keep Sean in Brazil. The child lives with his Brazilian stepfather, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva. 

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Congressman Chris Smith have been supporting Goldman’s battle. Smith told reporters in Brazil that child abduction is “a serious crime. For five years David has been trying to get his son. We hope this is the end game and that he’ll be reunited with his only father and that’s David Goldman.”

Clearly this case should be decided in favor of Goldman. He is the only living biological parent -- and he should prevail.

If the boy has ties in Brazil that have developed during his five years there, some humanitarian arrangement could be worked out to enable the boy to visit friends and relatives in Brazil while living in New Jersey.

Sean is not a ping pong ball to be batted back and forth from court to court, from relative to relative. He needs the love of a father who cares. Like any boy, he needs a role model and the courts should decide the issues here based not on nationalistic emotions nor legal fine points but on one criterion: compassion.

But Sean’s Brazilian relatives are well connected politically. Whether or not that is a factor in this case still remains to be fully seen.

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