RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil's chief justice on Tuesday ruled in favor of a U.S. man who has pursued a five-year court battle to gain custody of his son.
According to the court's Web site, Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes ruled that David Goldman's 9-year-old son must be delivered to him by the boy's Brazilian relatives, as a federal court ordered last week.
The ruling put Goldman one step closer to finally being reunited with his son, Sean. The boy was taken by Goldman's now-dead ex-wife to her native Brazil in 2004, where he has remained. Goldman has been fighting to get him back from the boy's stepfather.
Goldman's New Jersey-based attorney, Patricia Apy, said late Tuesday that she believed Mendes' order required that Sean be handed over immediately, but she said Goldman's attorneys had not heard from attorneys for the Brazilian family.
Attorneys on both sides have said there was still a chance for the Brazilian family to appeal to Brazil's highest appeals court, though the chances of success seemed slight.
Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, N.J., declined to comment until he learned more details about the 50-page ruling.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey congressman who traveled to Brazil to offer his support, said Goldman was pleased. "He was elated, a big smile came to his face, but he said 'I'm not going to let my guard down until it's wheels up,' " Smith said.
Goldman has seen earlier rulings ordering Sean's return be blocked, and for days his supporters have expressed worries that the Brazilian family might try to flee or hide Sean.
Both the U.S. and Brazilian governments argued that the case clearly fell under the Hague Convention, which seeks to ensure that custody decisions are made by the courts in the country where a child originally lived — in this case, the United States.
A lawyer specializing in the Hague Convention said Tuesday's decision by Mendes was the only right one to make.
"It would be virtually impossible to reconcile international law with a ruling in favor of the Brazilian family," said Greg Lewen of the Miami-based law firm Fowler White Burnett.