An American man who has waged a four-year custody battle for his son in Brazil brought a U.S. congressman along Thursday to help make his case to the country's courts and politicians.
Speaking with The Associated Press on their way to Brasilia, David Goldman said he has not been allowed to see his 8-year-old son Sean since his former wife Bruna took the boy for a two-week vacation to her native Brazil in 2004 and never returned.
She later divorced him in Brazil — a divorce he says is not valid in the United States — and married Rio de Janeiro lawyer Joao Paulo Lins e Silva. The woman died last year of complications from the birth of another child, and the lawyer has tried since then to replace Goldman's name with his own on a new birth certificate, Goldman said.
Goldman "has done everything by the book. He wants to be with his son, fair and simple, and his son should be with him in New Jersey," said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith.
Lins e Silva did not immediately respond Thursday to telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment. His father Paulo, speaking on behalf of his son, said Brazilian legislation prohibited attorneys from commenting on cases involving child custody, alimony and family disputes.
Paulo Lins e Silva, a well-known attorney, emphasized he was not representing his son in the case.
Both sides were scheduled to meet Friday with a high-ranking Brazilian federal judge who is expected to attempt mediation or decide whether the case should be heard in federal or state courts in Rio de Janeiro, said a court spokeswoman who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy.
Smith also planned meetings with Brazilian government officials before and after the closed-door hearing, and was waiting to learn if his request to meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be granted.
Smith, a New Jersey Republican, introduced a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday accusing Brazil of violating an international treaty requiring the government to quickly reunite Goldman with his son. New Jersey's senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, also wrote an open letter to Silva asserting that Brazil has failed to comply with the treaty.
Goldman, a Tinton Falls, N.J., resident who owns a charter boat business and sells real estate, said he doubts mediation will resolve the case, since the boy's Brazilian relatives have resisted all attempts at negotiation.
"It's been 100 percent cold shoulder," he said. "As far as they are concerned I don't count and I don't exist."