I have worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on child abduction cases and am outraged by the actions of the Brazilian court in refusing to honor its obligations under the Hague Convention on rules governing Child Abductions. Essentially, Brazil has signed off on the Convention to ensure that its children are returned to its borders and at the same time, is refusing to honor its obligation to ensure the "prompt" return of children abducted elsewhere and brought to Brazil.
In 2004, Sean Goldman, a four year old boy and U.S. citizen, was taken on a two-week vacation to Brazil by his Brazilian born mother. At the end of her vacation, the mother decided to remain in Brazil and despite legal action taken by the father in the U.S. under the Hague Convention (for the return of the child to the U.S.), she refused to return the child to the United States and thus far, Brazil has refused to honor its obligation to return the child to the United States as well.
Brazil’s actions are significant since both Brazil and the United States are signatories to the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction. Countries who are party to this convention are required to return a child who has been abducted by one parent back to the child’s country of habitual residence without getting involved in any custody determination - leaving that decision to the courts of the country of habitual residency for the child.
At the time he went to Brazil for a vacation in 2004, Sean’s country of habitual residence was the United States. Article 12 of the Hague Convention required the courts of Brazil to order the immediate return of the child to the U.S.. As such, if there was to be a fight over custody of the child, that fight (under the Hague Convention) was to occur in the U.S. court system. However, to date Brazil has refused to comply with its obligations under international law and highlights the frustrations faced by parents seeking the return of their children in international child abduction cases.
4 ½ years after his child was abducted, the Brazilian courts have now allowed David Goldman to see his son for the first time. Yet, would not allow him to leave Brazil with his son. Is Brazil going to honor the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction and return Sean to the United States ? The answer is that it is required to do so, but more than likely it will only occur so as a result of the forthcoming visit by the President of Brazil to the United States and the political pressure that is likely to be exerted upon him by the U.S. government.
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