5 February 2009
Lautenberg, Menendez Call On Brazilian President To Take Action To Return Sean Goldman To Father
N.J. Senators Say Son Belongs With Father in United States ; Request Meeting With Brazilian Ambassador to Settle International Custody Dispute
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (NJ) and Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) today called on Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to follow international law and assist in the return of Sean Goldman to his father in the United States . Sean Goldman, who is eight years old, was taken to Brazil by his mother Bruna Goldman in 2004 and kept in Brazil without the consent of the boy’s father – David Goldman. David Goldman has since waged a legal battle to get his son back.
Under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of the International Abduction of Children, of which both the U.S. and Brazil are signatories, a child who is a habitual resident in one party country, and who has been removed to another party country in violation of the parent’s custodial rights, is to be returned to the country of habitual residence.
Bruna Goldman passed away in 2008. Sean is currently in Brazil with his stepfather. In January, Sen. Lautenberg personally met with David Goldman and U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Clifford Sobel in separate meetings about the abduction case. A copy of the Senators’ letter is attached and pasted below:
Dear President Lula:
We are writing to bring your attention to an international custody dispute involving David Goldman, a United States citizen from New Jersey , and his son, Sean Goldman. In 2004, Sean, a United States citizen, was taken to Brazil by Mr. Goldman’s late wife, Bruna Goldman, for a two-week vacation. Once in Brazil , Mrs. Goldman informed Mr. Goldman that she would permanently stay in Brazil with the child without Mr. Goldman’s consent. Since that time, Mr. Goldman has not been permitted to visit with or gain custody of his son, even after Mrs. Goldman’s death in 2008.
For the past four years, Mr. Goldman has been working within Brazilian and U.S. courts, to secure return of his son and assert his parental rights. On August 26, 2004, two months after the child’s arrival with his Mother in Brazil , the Superior Court of the State of New Jersey issued a ruling ordering that Sean be returned to the United States . When the child was not returned, Mr. Goldman filed judicial proceedings with the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro based on the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of the International Abduction of Children. Under the Hague Convention, of which both the U.S. and Brazil are signatories, a child who is a habitual resident in one party country, and who has been removed to another party country in violation of the parent’s custodial rights, is to be returned to the country of habitual residence.
The failure to return Sean to Mr. Goldman appears to be in direct contradiction to the intentions of the Hague Convention. It is our understanding that Mr. Goldman has been prevented from securing the return of Sean to the United States based upon Article 12 of the Hague Convention, which states that it is within a judge’s discretionary power to refuse return of a child if the application for return is made more than one year after the date of the taking and the child has become settled in the new environment. However, this application of Article 12 hardly seems fair under these circumstances, and seems inconsistent with the language and purpose of the Treaty. Mr. Goldman did petition for the return of his child within a year of his being taken to Brazil . Additionally, it would set a dangerous precedent to deny parental rights based of the length of time for which the parent was denied access to the child and time-consuming judicial proceedings.
Further, with the death of Bruna Goldman, any possible argument of the child having become acclimated in the care of his Mother has dissipated. Mr. Goldman is Sean’s remaining biological and legal parent.
As we are sure you can appreciate, these four years have been extremely painful for Mr. Goldman. He has not been permitted to see his son Sean since 2004 – and even when Mr. Goldman traveled to Rio de Janeiro in October 2008 for visitation ordered by the Brazilian court, Sean was hidden from him and those rights were violated. Many diplomatic efforts have been made to ensure Sean’s return to his father. The U.S. Embassy in Brazil has repeatedly urged Brazilian authorities to recognize Mr. Goldman’s paternal rights and the international and national laws that favor his case. Furthermore, the Special Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic of Brazil, the central authority for the Hague Convention in Brazil, has sent a request to the Office of the Attorney General for the return of Sean to the U.S.
Given the strong and friendly relationship between our two countries, we are writing to respectfully ask that you examine this case and take appropriate action to reunite Sean and his father. We also request a meeting with Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota at his earliest possible convenience. Thank you for your time and consideration.