David Goldman, who won a five-year battle with his late wife’s Brazilian family for custody of his son, Sean, returned home to Tinton Falls Dec. 28 with the nine-year-old.
It was a long-awaited reunion for grandparents Barry and Ellie Goldman of Wayside, who had not seen their grandson since his mother abruptly took him to her native Brazil in 2004.
The older Goldmans had accompanied their son to Brazil several times, but were thwarted in their attempts to see the boy.
“His grandparents in New Jersey have been heartbroken,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-Dist. 4), who has taken a personal interest in the case and accompanied Goldman to Brazil this month. “They had to go back to New Jersey without seeing their grandson…. [Sean] is a human being, not a commodity, and he had a relationship with them cut off in a very aggressive manner.”
Smith spoke to NJJN and other reporters in teleconference calls from Rio de Janeiro on Dec. 22 and 24. He said members of the Goldman family were going to be “cocoon-like” as they got to know their nephew, grandson, and son.
Smith was on hand when father and son were reunited outside the United States consulate for the court-ordered reunion on Dec. 24. As soon as Sean and David spotted each other, said Smith, “it was a wonderful experience with smiles and hugs.”
“Sean was initially reserved, but happy and pleased to be with his father,” Smith said. “They had a hamburger and coke, talked about basketball, the snow in New Jersey, and friends and relatives in New Jersey.”
Smith said David called his parents so that Sean could say hello.
“When they boarded the plane together, David and Sean both turned around, smiled, and waved goodbye from the top of the stairs,” said Smith. “There was not one bit of reluctance on Sean’s part.”
Nevertheless, Smith criticized the manner in which Sean was led through a throng of media outside the consulate. Photos show the youngster crying.
He said the consulate offered the Brazilian family two options: to go through an underground garage, “which would have been very private and very appropriate,” or through the front door.
He said the boy’s maternal grandmother and stepfather told the Brazilian press they “wanted to make a spectacle of this” to give a false impression of how the youngster felt. The congressman said David Goldman “had tears in his eyes” as he watched from an upstairs window.
The reunion capped a long custody battle, after Goldman’s then wife, Bruna Bianchi Goldman, took Sean to her native Brazil for a two-week vacation in 2004. She did not return, and after obtaining a Brazilian divorce, married a local attorney. She died in childbirth in 2008, and her second husband and wealthy and influential family fought efforts to return Sean to his father in violation of international treaties on child abduction.
A Dec. 23 ruling by the chief justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court finally cleared the way for the boy’s return.
Smith has introduced the International Child Abduction Protection Act of 2009 to secure the return of abducted American children and would allow the United States to impose sanctions on countries that don’t comply.
Before his abduction, Sean had been enrolled in the Tinton Falls Cooperative Nursery School sponsored by the Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls.