The Goldman Case: And How It Demonstrates Current Processes For International Child Abduction
The Goldman case represents every parent’s worst nightmare in international family member abduction cases. And although this case was resolved with the safe return of the child in 2009, it still represents what can easily happen in an international child abduction case. However, knowing the case, its facts and outcome can be a powerful tool in preparing, assisting and ultimately encouraging parents who may be struggling with similar circumstances.
The Goldman Case:
In 2004, Bruna Carniero Ribiero asked David Goldman if she should take their child on vacation to her native Brazil. Once she was out of the country and unbeknownst to Goldman, Ribiero filed for divorce. The case made its slow and meandering way through the Brazilian courts with many significant twists and turns. And just when it appeared to be coming to a close upon Bruna’s death in 2008, her second husband surprised everyone by seeking custody. Finally, after a protracted legal battle, the Brazilian Supreme Court ruled in Goldman’s favor and returned his son.
The Hague Convention:
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abductions dictates that any countries signing the treaty will adhere to certain laws. The U.S. and Brazil have both signed the treaty. As such, they have agreed that when a parent unlawfully takes a child under the age of 16 to another country, the child should be returned to the home country’s courts to determine any issues related to custody. There are a few exceptions such as consent from both or one parent, situations where the home parent is not the custodial parent, the child is sufficiently mature to make a decision, and instances where there is a significant risk of danger to the child. However, it should be noted that the complaining parent must take documented legal action within a year of the abduction.
Problems With The System:
There currently are no safeguards in place to alert parents if a child is taken out of the country by another parent. Moreover, it is very easy for a parent to take a child out of the country before anyone knows they are missing. And in cases such as Goldman’s, where a parent agrees to let the child leave, there are still fewer legal support methods for parents to recover a child. Consequently, prevention is the best way for parents to act in such cases.
Another problem with such cases is that once the child is out of the country, it may be nearly impossible to enforce the Hague Convention. A New Jersey court ruled in favor of Goldman in 2004, but the courts in Brazil treated Goldman’s situation as a custody issue instead of an abduction case. Goldman was then forced to make numerous appearances in Brazil to convince the courts that his son had been abducted.
It should also be noted that many countries following Islamic law, have not signed the Hague Convention and do not honor American family court rulings. Other countries that have not signed the Convention include Russia, China (other than Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and most of Africa and Asia. Parents should take extra care to prevent their children from being taken to any of these countries.
If your child is abducted or your suspect they are at risk for abduction, you need to take recovery or prevention steps immediately. There are organizations who can help locate your child, give suggestions and advice, and help you obtain an attorney. Contact the State Department as soon as possible. Unfortunately, you will also need to prepare yourself for the possibility of expensive or protracted litigation. And as tempting as it may seem to remove the child yourself without a court order, such tactics could result in a prosecution for kidnapping.
Any and all advice contained herein is intended only to assist parents and families of missing and abducted children. For more tips and advice, contact your local law enforcement or FBI office.
About The National Academy for Child Abduction Prevention Associates, LLC:
Founded in 2013 by Roy M. Doppelt, Esq., the National Academy for Child Abduction and Prevention Associates, LLC is an Academy of family law attorneys advocating prevention of child abduction through public education and professional collaboration. We believe that educating the public about kidnapping and its prevention is a paramount duty of attorneys who represent family law clients.