Jersey Boy in Brazil Custody Battle Cannot Testify

Little Sean Goldman too young to decide his fate, a Brazilian judge ruled

The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a 9-year-old Brazilian boy at the center of an international custody battle will not be allowed to testify about whether he wants to remain with relatives in Brazil or join his American father.

Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes ruled against the habeas corpus petition filed by the boy's Brazilian grandmother, Silvana Bianchi. She argued the boy should be heard before being returned to his biological father, David Goldman.

A Brazilian judge last month ruled that the boy be handed over to Goldman in the United States, but a Supreme Court justice suspended that decision after receiving a petition from a political party arguing that removing the boy from his current family environment would hurt him. Another judge at a lower court said the boy must remain with his stepfather in Brazil until a final ruling.

Goldman's Brazilian wife, Bruna Bianchi, took the boy to Brazil in 2004. She later married a Brazilian lawyer and died last year during the birth of a daughter.

Patricia Apy, Goldman's lawyer in New Jersey, has been arguing for months that the boy is in a fragile state and that because of his age and maturity level he should not be asked where he wants to live.

She said a provision of the Hague Convention on Child Abductions that governs how nations should handle these international cases and allows children's input, is aimed at teenagers.

"It's not to deal with (a) 7-, 8-, 9-year-old child," Apy said. "Children of that age are not in a position to say."

Goldman has been seeking custody for years under the Hague Convention and the custody battle has prompted top-level discussions in both countries, involving even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and presidents Barack Obama and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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