Friday, March 13, 2009

Son Abducted to Brazil, U.S. Dad's Hague Convention Application Languishes

MSNBC reports today on an American father's frustrating ordeal.  

David Goldman's now-deceased wife abducted their son, Sean, to Brazil in June 2004 on the pretext of a two-week vacation. Upon arriving in Rio de Janeiro, she told Mr. Goldman their marital  relationship was over and unilaterally declared that she intended to maintain sole custody of their child.

Within 50 business days, Mr. Goldman filed an Application pursuant to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction for the return of his son.

Prior to her death this year, the mother remarried.  Her new husband, a prominent and connected Brazilian lawyer, continues to thwart Mr. Goldman's efforts to return his son to the U.S.

The outcome - a judicially-sanctioned impasse that continues to separate father and son, and a high-profile controversy that has led to diplomatic intervention by U. S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
In 2004, Goldman filed a petition under the Hague convention to have his son returned. Hague convention cases are supposed to be a "very expeditious process" and not last longer than six weeks, said James D. Garbolino, an assigned Superior Court judge in California who has written a book on such cases. 
Among the common defenses for not returning a child, Garbolino said, are that a child would suffer grave psychological harm by going back to his or her home country, or if the parent waits more than a year after the child's departure to file a petition. Goldman filed within 50 business days of his son's departure, according to his attorneys, but Bianchi's side argued that Sean would be emotionally damaged if he returned to the United States.
A federal judge in Rio in 2005 agreed that Sean had been moved to Brazil wrongfully but ruled that he should stay in Brazil because he had become "settled" in his new home, which is an exception described in the treaty.

These comments by one of the second husband's lawyers -  he has engaged a team of seventy lawyers on the case -  speak volumes:
"Sean is a naturalized Brazilian citizen. He has lived here for almost five years and has been raised with much love, affection and care by a serious family, receiving the best education possible," he wrote, adding, "It's not fair, nor humane, this slaughter that we are suffering involving the calculated capriciousness of an absent father."

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