November 18, 2015
Source: The Washington Post
On July 1, 2013, my almost 4-year-old son, Nico, boarded a plane in Texas bound for Brazil, traveling with my then-wife Marcelle Guimarães to visit her family. Since that day, my son has not set foot in his bedroom, attended classes at our local elementary school or been able to return to see his 11 cousins or six aunts and uncles who live in Texas.
My wife had filed for divorce, and we had agreed to joint custody of our son. She asked if she could travel with him to Brazil for her brother’s wedding. I could not bear the thought of losing Nico, but I also didn’t want to cut him off from his mother’s family. I let them leave, but only after making sure we had a travel agreement, signed by our lawyers and filed with the Texas court, requiring my wife to return. I knew I had done everything I could to protect my son, and I prayed he would be back safe in my arms in three weeks time.
Two-and-a-half years later, I am still waiting. According to the State Department, I am merely one of 763 American parents whose children were illegally taken to 66 different countries and who are struggling to secure their return. But if the U.S. government cannot secure the return of Nico, no left-behind parent has any hope.
The moment I got the call from my lawyer, I knew my worst fears had been realized. Within days of arriving in Brazil, my wife filed for sole custody in Brazil state court. She claimed I was physically and mentally sick and omitted any mention of the Texas legal proceedings. I learned later from those filings that she had gotten a job and enrolled Nico in school months before signing the travel agreement. The Brazil court gave her sole custody of Nico without telling me a case had been filed.
After we separated, our relationship was strained, but we loved our son. It wasn’t perfect, but Nico got to spend half his time with me. Today, I see him less than 1 percent of the time and only under supervision of armed guards, despite eight experts from the United States and Brazil having said I am an excellent father. Judge Darilda Oliveira Maier has inexplicably refused six requests over the past two years to have a hearing to revisit the decision of sole custody or the terms of my visitation.
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