Page last updated at 00:22 GMT, Friday, 25 December 2009

Boy reunited with US father after Brazil custody fight

Sean arrives at the US consulate in Rio with his stepfather Joao Paulo Lins e Silva and lawyer Sergio Tostes
Sean was taken to Brazil when he was four years old

A US father has been reunited with his nine-year-old son after a bitter, five-year custody battle with the boy's Brazilian relatives.

David Goldman flew back to Florida with his son Sean after the Brazilian family brought the boy to the US consulate in Rio de Janeiro to be reunited with him.

Sean was taken to Brazil by Mr Goldman's now-deceased ex-wife.

The case became a high-profile issue, stalling the passage of a trade bill with Brazil in the US Senate.

Sean, wearing a yellow Brazil football shirt, was brought to the US consulate in line with a court deadline.

He looked anxious as his stepfather and the family lawyer pushed through a crowd of jostling journalists, photographers and police officers.

"This is a very difficult moment," said his maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi.

Mr Goldman's US lawyer, Patricia Apy, was critical of how the handover was carried out.

"Unfortunately, the Brazilian family, rather than have the hand-off take place in a garage, which would have been secure, parked away and walked him through the press, which only serves to make the situation more stressful for the child," she told the Associated Press news agency.

Mr Goldman and Sean made the journey back to Orlando, Florida, on a chartered private plane. Most media were kept far away.

Trade bill

The head of Brazil's Supreme Court, Gilmar Mendes, said on Tuesday that the boy should be returned to his father in accordance with a ruling by a lower court and international custody accords.

The custody battle began when Mr Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took Sean to her native Brazil ostensibly for a two-week holiday in 2004.

She stayed, got a divorce and married a prominent lawyer, Joao Paulo Lins e Silva.

Mr Goldman launched a legal fight to win custody of his son. When Ms Bianchi died in childbirth in 2008, Mr Lins e Silva continued the battle to keep Sean and won temporary custody.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both pressed their Brazilian counterparts on the issue.

Last week, the legal fight appeared over when a Brazilian appeals court ruled that Sean should be handed over to his father.

But when another court ruled against this, US Senator Frank Lautenberg blocked renewal of a trade bill with Brazil.

When news of the Supreme Court's ruling came through, Sen Lautenberg lifted his opposition and the bill was passed unanimously.

Silvana Bianchi said the custody issue had been decided by international pressure.

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