RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) — Nine-year-old Sean Goldman was reunited with his father here Thursday, and a few hours later they were flying home to the United States for their first holiday season together in five years, the U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro said.
David Goldman and his son met at the consulate earlier in the day, ending a much-publicized international custody battle.
They were flying home on a private charter jet, which left from Galeao International Airport.
Previously, the consulate said the U.S. government was paying for the flight, but consulate spokesman Guilherme Monsanto said that was not true. He added that the government would not reveal the plane’s route or destination, citing the U.S. Privacy Act. David Goldman lives in New Jersey.
The Christmas Eve reunion comes after a five-year-custody battle that involved U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and numerous Brazilian courtrooms.
“Sean Goldman is finally with his father David,” a consulate statement said.
The boy’s maternal grandmother, Silvana Bianchi, refused a consulate offer of a police escort Thursday morning from the family’s Rio home, saying it would harm the boy psychologically, according to the Brazilian broadcast network TV Record.
The boy, appearing worried and frightened, arrived at the consulate wearing a yellow and green Brazil soccer jersey, and clutched his stepfather as he walked past a throng of reporters.
The chief justice of the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of David Goldman, who had been battling the family of the boy’s deceased mother for custody. The ruling by Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes paved the way for the reunion when the family said they would not file any new appeals in an attempt to keep the boy with them.
Last week, a lower court unanimously upheld a decision ordering Sean to be returned to his father in New Jersey. David Goldman arrived in Rio de Janeiro to reunite with his son, but one Supreme Court justice issued a stay, ordering Sean to remain with his Brazilian relatives until the high court could consider the case. Mendes’ decision lifted the stay.
This week, the U.S. State Department issued a passport to Sean so he could travel to the United States, spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Wednesday.
The young boy was accompanied by many of his Brazilian family members, including Bianchi, who had vehemently opposed allowing Sean to return to the United States.
TV Record reported that the grandmother provided Sean’s father with a list of the boy’s allergies and medications.
Scrawled on the boy’s luggage was the name Sean Goldman.
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 argued that as the sole surviving parent, he should be granted custody.
The Bianchi family maintained it would traumatize Sean to remove him from what has been his home for years.
The custody battle garnered heavy media attention and spilled over into the political arena as well.
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Article courtesy of: CNN