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Dad seeks custody of son taken to Brazil

  • Story Highlights
  • David Goldman's wife, Bruna, took son to Brazil, asked for divorce
  • Bruna later remarried, died while giving birth
  • Brazilian court awarded custody of Goldman's son to stepfather
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked Brazilian government to return child
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(CNN) -- An 8-year-old American boy is caught in the middle of an ugly custody battle so high profile that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is using her clout to try to bring the boy home.

David Goldman's legal battle to gain custody of his son has drawn the attention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

David Goldman's legal battle to gain custody of his son has drawn the attention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In 2004, David Goldman dropped off his wife, Bruna, and then-4-year-old son, Sean, at the airport for a two-week vacation in Brazil. Shortly after she arrived in her native country, Bruna told David she wanted a divorce and planned to stay in Brazil with their son.

Bruna later remarried and got pregnant, but she died while giving birth last summer. Goldman thought he was getting his son back, but a Brazilian family court judge granted custody of Sean to Bruna's new husband.

Goldman talked with CNN's Larry King about the international legal battle he is waging to gain custody of his son. King also talked to Helvecio Ribeiro, Bruna Goldman's uncle. The following is an edited version of the interviews.

Larry King: What caused the breakup of the marriage?

David Goldman: I don't know. Apparently, she decided she wanted to live in Brazil, where she said she had more friends and more family and where she was known.

King: Did you feel happily married?

Goldman: Yes, I thought we were happily married.

King: So this was a call out of the blue?

Goldman: I was completely blindsided and crushed.

King: What did you do then?

Goldman: Well, I (got) a phone call. My mom tracked it down as being Father's Day, about three days after they arrived. The first call was they got there safe, everything was OK. Then, I got a phone call and a very serious voice -- a voice they didn't recognize, really, as being, you know, it was out of her normal tone.

Bruna says, "David, we need to talk. You're a great guy. You're a wonderful father, but our love affair is ended, is over. I've decided I want to live in Brazil and you need to come down to Brazil immediately and sign 10 pages of papers with my attorney." There was a list of demands on these papers. One was giving her full custody. Another was to never go to the courts to file any claims of kidnapping or criminal charges.

King: Did you get to talk to your son?

Goldman: I got to talk to my son. In fact, I got to speak with all of them in the beginning, while they were still trying to get me to go down there and be trapped in this custody battle. At that point, I wasn't the enemy until I didn't meet her demands and I did go to the courts.

King: Well, when you went (to Brazil), who did you see? What did you do?

Goldman: I went to the courts. I went to every ruling on every court proceeding and with the guise that they would honor the Hague Treaty and return (my) son. And every time, it just got worse and worse.

In the first instance, they kept Sean for over a year before they made this ruling. And then they said, 'Well, you know, yes, he was taken unlawfully and he should have been returned, but now he's settled with the mother. These are Brazilian judges who have admitted that he's been held unlawfully and wrongfully.

King: How did you hear she died?

Goldman: I have friends who, kind of, have an ear to the ground in Brazil, and there were some articles that came out in some local Brazilian newspapers and they did some on the Internet and said she'd passed away.

King: Did you try then to get the child back legally?

Goldman: Yes. As soon as I was notified, I called both counsel in Brazil and in the U.S., and they said it should be over. You know, we have stacks of court records and all these treaties and it's always been about Bruna and David, Bruna and David. There's no more Bruna. By all matters of law, international and national and Brazilian law, no one has a legal claim of custody but the living, biological parent. Go down to Brazil and bring your son home.

King: What happened in court?

Goldman: In this past court, we finally got a visitation ruling. But when I went down the first time to bring my son home, we find out that this man doesn't file custody, but he files to remove my name from a Brazilian birth certificate that they had issued for my son, who was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. And with that, they gave him a provisionary guardianship -- a provisionary.

King: Obviously, he wanted the boy?

Goldman: Obviously.

King: When you were (with him?

Goldman: Oh, he was -- I just saw him this last February for the first time.

King: At eight years old, did he ask you why he's not with you?

Goldman: He asked why I haven't come to see him in all this time. And that was very, very painful -- and the anguish on his face when he asked me that question. And I didn't want to tell him that the situation that I'm not allowed -- that they weren't allowing me, they're holding him. So I just told him that I had been there many times with his grandmother, with his grandfather, with his cousins, with family friends to see him, sometimes staying for up to two weeks and the courts -- it was difficult.

King: How long did you have with him?

Goldman: I saw him for two days a total of about six hours.

King: How did you say goodbye?

Goldman: It was very, very difficult. I just kept telling him the whole time how much I love him, how much I miss him.

King: Did you tell him you were going to try to get him back?

Goldman: No. I told him I'm going to always try to be with him. I don't want him to be put in any type of awkward situation or uncomfortable situation. I just told him I love him, I miss him and everyone at home loves him. And he remembers things at home. We spoke English.

King: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has raised the Goldman case with the Brazilian government. Anything you'd say to her?

Goldman: I'm just -- I'm so grateful and thankful that -- that she's helping me and she knows what's right and sees what's right and she cares about children and parents' rights to be with their own flesh and blood.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

King followed the Goldman interview by talking to Helvecio Ribeiro, Bruna Goldman's uncle.

King: Why do you think that David should not have his son? Why shouldn't he have his -- it's his son.

Ribeiro: That's right. And I don't question the biological right. The fact of the matter is that in order to be a parent, you have to be more than just a DNA donor, Mr. King. Fatherhood is not about making home movies and taking pictures, it's about sacrifice. It's about providing support to your child. It's about being there even when you're not there. And Mr. Goldman, while Bruna was still alive, failed to do so. I'm not sure if you know that, but he hasn't paid one single dime of child support so far. And he has been making allegations all over the place about us not allowing him to visit his child. They are completely untrue.

King: Do you question whether David loves his child?

Ribeiro: Oh, absolutely. I think that it's really easy to say that you love someone, but you have to act and show that. Mr. Goldman never had any interest on actually going down to Brazil, even to visit. I mean the child is not guilty of his parents' mistakes. I mean divorces happen all the time. And the parents should be responsible and work their way toward finding an agreement in which, you know, both parents are part of the children's lives. And he failed to do that because it was not in his best interests.

King: How close is he [Sean's stepfather] with Sean?

Ribeiro: Very close. Sean knows exactly that he is not his biological father, but he also calls him Daddy. Sean knows that, you know, Mr. Goldman is his biological father. Even though it was not mentioned during this interview, Sean normally talks to Mr. Goldman or at least used to talk to Mr. Goldman and also her -- his grandmother here in the United States. So he knows exactly the difference. He knows exactly who is who.

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