For five years, little Sean Goldman’s mother and Brazilian grandparents kept from him from his father David by keeping him in Rio de Janeiro. The situation may have now come full circle, following State Superior Court Judge Michael A. Guadagno’s denial of visiting rights to these same grandparents in a Monmouth County court. He issued the 44-page decision on February 17.
David Goldman had agreed to specific visitation conditions for Silvana Bianchi Ribeiro and Raimundo Ribeiro Filho. After rejecting those conditions, they petitioned the court for more lenient visitation.
MaryAnn Spoto of The Star-Ledger reported that Guadagno dismissed the grandparents’ complaint. He reprimanded them for their "contemptible actions’’ and repeated attempts to undermine the father-son relationship by playing a major part in the original Brazilian litigation.
According to Michelle Sahn of app.com, attorney Jonathan Wolfe, of Skoloff and Wolfe in Livingston, confirmed his clients’ disappointment. They accused Goldman of continuously cutting them off from Sean since he returned to Tinton Falls to live with his father in 2009. The grandparents may choose to take further legal action.
The custody battle, creating an international dispute over custody rights for Sean, began in June 2004. Goldman's wife Bruna, Sean’s mother, took the child to her native Brazil for a planned short vacation. Upon arriving, she divorced Goldman, cut all ties between him and Sean and then remarried.
After Bruna died in childbirth in 2008, Sean’s stepfather filed for custody. Spoto reported that the Brazilian court was unaware of Goldman’s New Jersey legal action. The court initially granted custody of Sean to the stepfather, who had charged Goldman with abandonment. Guadagno stated that these abandonment accusations went beyond all decency.
The U.S. government became involved once the American media exposed the case on television. In March 2009, talks took place between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Brazilian foreign minister. Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) then arranged to travel to Brazil with Goldman, who saw Sean for the first time in over four years.
After much delay and legal conflict, Goldman prevailed and returned to the U.S. with Sean in 2009. Sean and his grandparents communicated via e-mail and photographs, but the grandparents then sabotaged the arrangement by devising a coded e-mail account.
Despite the subterfuge, Goldman would still permit visitation if the grandparents agreed to certain conditions, which included dropping all Brazilian lawsuits. They refused, and Guadagno lambasted them for their lack of gratitude and the relentless legal war. He further charged them with emotional abuse, but agreed to keep the door open for some relationship if the grandparents comply with Goldman’s reasonable expectations.