A Texas father is appealing to President Barack Obama for help after his ex-wife took the couple's son to Brazil two years ago and never returned.
Chris Brann last had his son Nico in his home in 2013, a few days before ex-wife Marcelle Guimaraes took the then-3-year-old child to her native Brazil, where she said they would attend her brother's wedding, The Washington Post reported. The couple had begun a mostly amicable split in 2012, and Guimaraes convinced Brann she would return with their child.
"I could not bear the thought of losing Nico, but I also didn’t want to cut him off from his mother’s family," Brann wrote in an opinion article for The Washington Post. "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."
But Guimaraes never intended on returning, or allowing her son to make it back to the U.S., Brann said — he didn't know at the time, but his ex-wife secured a job in her home city of Salvador and enrolled Nico in a Brazilian school. Brann didn't realize what his wife was planning until she failed to return, and he got his lawyers involved.
"The moment I got the call from my lawyer, I knew my worst fears had been realized," Brann wrote. "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 ...The Brazil court gave her sole custody of Nico without telling me a case had been filed."
Brann said he believes the president is his best hope because, despite the efforts of his attorneys and an acknowledgement from Brazil’s Central Authority that Nico had been illegally taken away from him, the Brazilian courts have consistently sided with Guimaraes. In July, Brazilian federal Judge Arali Maciel Duarte agreed in a ruling that Nico had been "illicitly" taken, Brann wrote, but wouldn't order his return to the U.S.
Duarte, Brann says, "claimed Nico was 'well settled' in Brazil even though I filed my case within two months of Nico’s abduction The Hague Convention says a return cannot be denied on these grounds unless the left-behind parent delays more than a year before filing a case. Incredibly, Duarte also insisted that I 'forgive [Guimaraes] for the mistakes she has committed' and, even more insulting, that 'as a Christian' I should 'show gratitude for all that [she] did for [me].'”
Now, Brann says he sees his son about once every two months when he flies to Brazil, and he's amassed several hundred thousand dollars in legal bills from fighting the case in American and Brazilian courts. An Indiegogo campaign set up by Brann's co-workers raised almost $18,000 in 2013.
Brann hopes precedent will help him return his son to American soil thanks to a similar case: In 2004, 4-year-old Sean Goldman was abducted by his Brazilian-born mother and taken to Rio de Janeiro. The boy's father, David Goldman, eventually regained custody of his son after a long legal battle and intervention from his representatives. The case inspired The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction and Prevention Act, which was signed into law by Obama in 2014.
"I will not stop fighting until Nico is home. But I need my government to do more," Brann wrote. "I urge President Obama to engage personally with Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and take every possible legal avenue to bring my son back. Until then, I will keep praying that this nightmare will end."