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Brazilian family invites boy's American father for Christmas

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Child custody battle continues
  • NEW: Boy at center of custody dispute may be allowed to go to U.S., family says
  • U.S. lawmaker says man plans to appeal ruling to Brazil's Supreme Court
  • Ex-wife took son to Brazil in 2004, never returned him to New Jersey
  • She died in childbirth; boy's stepfather says he should stay in Brazil
  • Brazil
  • New Jersey
  • Child Custody

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- An American man fighting for custody of his 9-year-old son has been invited to spend Christmas with the boy's Brazilian family, the family's attorney said Friday.

David Goldman has been locked in a legal battle over custody of his son, Sean Goldman, with the family of the boy's deceased mother.

The family's attorney, Sergio Tostes, said Friday that the legal battle had gone too far.

"It is about time that Sean's family, and I mean all Sean's family, get together. I am authorized by Mrs. Silvana Bianchi to invite you, Mr. Goldman, to spend Christmas night at her house," Tostes said, referring to Sean's maternal grandmother. "This will be a long awaited family reunion"

"I hope you can accept and we can talk logistics," he said, with the boy's grandmother standing next to him.

Tostes also said that the family would consider allowing the boy to go to the United States, perhaps for the holidays, if Sean wants to go. However, "Sean must be heard in court," he said.

There was no immediate response from Goldman.

Earlier Friday, Goldman slammed a decision by a Brazilian Supreme Court justice Thursday that prevented the boy's return to the United States. That decision had "nothing to do with the merits" of the case, he said.

On Wednesday, a lower court unanimously upheld a decision ordering that Sean be returned to his father in New Jersey. That decision was made in accordance with the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abductions.

"Every day that my son is under that roof, he is being severely psychologically damaged," Goldman said. He insisted that there is the "utmost urgency" for Sean to be reunited with him.

"My son is suffering, and he's losing the innocence of ... a child," Goldman said.

The family argues that it would traumatize Sean to remove him from what has been his home since 2004, when his mother took him to Brazil on what she said would be a vacation.

The family said Sean screamed with joy when he found out Thursday that he would not have to leave with his dad.

The custody battle began in 2004, when Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took their then-4-year-old son from their home in New Jersey to Rio de Janeiro for what was to have been a two-week vacation. She never returned, instead remarrying there and retaining custody of Sean. She died last year in childbirth.

Goldman has argued that as the sole surviving parent, he should at last be granted custody.

Instead of traveling to Brasilia, where the high court is, Goldman planned to stay in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, where he is just miles from Sean.

He hasn't seen his son since February.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who is traveling with Goldman, said three court-appointed psychologists tasked with determining the boy's emotional and psychological well-being had unanimously concluded that he is being hurt emotionally "by the continuance of this abduction."

Smith said Sean was previously put in front of a video camera as adults asked questions. The boy made remarks in that video that members of his mother's family suggest indicate he should stay in Brazil.

If the court allows a child's drawings or such a videotape to be used as evidence in a courtroom, Smith said, "every kidnapper everywhere in the world -- every child abductor in the world" would have the children make such things.

Goldman also addressed the videotape: "What is he going to say? 'No, I hate it here,' knowing he'll go back up under their roof? What do you expect? He is an innocent, helpless, vulnerable, defenseless child that needs to be freed from this circumstance."

Smith called on Brazil's full Supreme Court to "vacate this illogical and unjust stay on the rightful return of Sean Goldman to his only dad."

If the court does not do so, Smith said, he and Goldman hope Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes will.

Smith also said Brazil's Central Authority, which represents interests of the International Court of Justice in the country, planned to appeal to get the justice's stay lifted.

Brazil's Central Authority did not immediately return calls seeking comment Friday.

Goldman described how he longed to bring his son home in time for Christmas, to play with him in the yard, to go to movies and eat popcorn.

Smith said that all the "surveillance" present at the time of the February visit -- including a psychologist that the family had "almost right next to David and Sean the whole time" -- made it "an oppressive situation."

"David ought to be with his son, not on a visit but permanently," Smith said.

The family has said Goldman can visit his son.

"It's not about going to a compound with a man standing over us, intimidating my son" and "making him nervous," Goldman said.

He added that when his son "was abducted," he would cry, "I want to be with my dad."

In separating the child from him, "You poison the child's mind," he said.

The case has drawn attention worldwide.

Smith called it a "major embarrassment to the Brazilian government."

Goldman said he holds out hope that he will be able to take Sean home so the two "can go on with our life as father and son."

"I'm ... begging for justice, begging," he said. "Why is it so hard? Why?"

CNN's Adam Reiss contributed to this report.