The 5-year ordeal of New Jersey dad David Goldman ended in Rio Thursday morning

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 24, 2009 06:05 AM
Credit: Felipe Dana/AP; Eduardo Naddar/AP

A child-abduction and custody battle that has waged since 2004 ended dramatically Thursday morning, when American father David Goldman was reunited with his 9-year-old son Sean at the U.S. consulate in Rio de Janiero.

Brazil s chief justice on Tuesday brought the emotional case to a close when he ruled that the boy should be returned to his natural father. On Wednesday, a Brazil federal court said that Sean should be handed over by Thursday morning.

The boy, delivered by his stepfather (whom Sean clutched), carried his luggage and wore a gold shirt with the Brazilian flag and Olympic rings underneath when he came to meet his father. Sean reportedly was also in tears. His maternal grandmother told reporters, “This is a very tough moment.”

The highly anticipated reunion came after representatives for Goldman and for the boy’s Brazilian family had negotiated the timing of the custody transfer, which was to take place at 6 a.m. By 6:40, father and son were off to the airport, for the trip to the U.S.

In 2004, Goldman’s now-deceased ex-wife took Sean with her for a visit to her native Brazi, where the boy has remained. After the mother went back to Brazil, she divorced Goldman, remarried, then died during childbirth. In those five years, Goldman had only seen his son twice.

News reports Thursday morning are quoting lawyers for the family in Brazil as saying they will not appeal the court-ordered return. There will be visitation rights, to be arranged later.

Goldman, of Tinton Falls, N.J., has been fighting to get his son back from the boy’s stepfather in what had blossomed into a long, frustrating and often bitter battle that even drew comment – and some action – from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama.

Midmorning Thursday, Secretary Clinton issue a statement, part of which said, “I am thrilled that 9-year-old Sean Goldman was reunited with his father David Goldman earlier today in Rio de Janeiro and that they are flying home to New Jersey … I offer my warmest wishes for father and son as they celebrate their first holiday season together in five years.”

Goldman said last week, “Sean is my family, Sean is my son. It is our right to be together, not just a rule of law, not just a treaty, not he’s Brazilian, not he’s American, not he’s from anywhere. He’s my son, and I should be able to raise my son and he should know his dad.”