RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil's Supreme Court has delayed the return of 9-year-old boy to his U.S. father.
Thursday's ruling by Justice Marco Aurelio Mello agrees with a petition by the boy's Brazilian family that he remain in Brazil until the court decides whether the boy's own testimony should be heard in the case.
The ruling suspends a Wednesday judgment by a lower court ordering that David Goldman be given custody of his son, Sean.
Because the Court goes into recess tomorrow, a ruling on whether the boy's testimony should be heard is not likely before February.
The boy will remain in Brazil at least until then.
A weary and somber David Goldman was met by a crush of reporters at the airport in Rio de Janeiro, where he simply said: "I hope I can go home with my son."
Asked if he thought this would be the final of many trips he has made to Brazil to win custody of his son, Sean, Goldman said: "I hope so."
A federal court in Rio has upheld an earlier ruling and ordered Sean to be handed over to Goldman, who lives in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, by Friday afternoon at the U.S. Consulate.
President Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have all urged the child's return, and a U.S. congressman traveled to Rio on Thursday to continue lobbying for Sean's return.
At the airport, an unidentified Brazilian woman in the crowd screamed at Goldman as he was leaving: "Leave your son here because he is happy! Don't take him away. You will regret it later; he doesn't know anyone in New Jersey."
Goldman showed no reaction to the woman's shout and was led by military police to a black SUV.
In 2004, Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took Sean to her native Brazil.
Goldman says it was to be a two-week vacation, but she stayed and so did the boy. She eventually obtained a Brazilian divorce from Goldman and remarried.
Goldman was already seeking his son's return under an international treaty that covers cross-border child abductions when his former wife died last year giving birth to a daughter.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who has been supportive of Goldman's fight and raised it in Congress, said upon landing in Rio that this case fell under international law and that the boy had been illegally taken away from Goldman.
"Child abduction is a serious crime and now for over five years David has been trying to get his son," Smith said. "We hope this is the end game and that he'll be reunited with his only father, and that's David Goldman."
But Goldman's own attorney warned that additional appeals could block the transfer of his son.
"The hand-over can be halted," said Ricardo Zamariola, Goldman's attorney, referring to a possible Supreme Court appeal by the family that now has custody of the boy.
Previous rulings favorable to Goldman have been scuttled by Brazilian courts. Zamariola said he was certain lawyers for Joao Paulo Lins e Silva, the Brazilian stepfather with whom Sean lives, would appeal Wednesday's federal court ruling to surrender the boy. Zamariola said he did not expect a final resolution until at least the first half of 2010.
The stepfather's attorney, Sergio Tostes, declined to comment.
The boy's maternal grandmother says Sean wants to stay in Rio and has filed a separate petition with the Supreme Court asking that the boy's desires be considered. A similar request from the Brazilian family was denied earlier this year.
The child, who has dual citizenship, has been shielded from speaking directly to the news media.
Goldman and Sean were reunited in February for the first time since his son was taken to Brazil. They have not seen each other since June.