Police in Brazil seized passports belonging to a mother and her 6-year-old daughter, stranding the pair from Agawam in South America amid an international child custody dispute with the child’s father, the woman says.
Shauna Hadden, a 33-year-old social worker, said the trip was meant for her daughter, Ava Machado, to reconnect with the father she had not seen in more than three years. The mother, who works for the state Department of Children and Families, said a Massachusetts court gave her full custody of Ava after the couple’s divorce in 2009.
But she and her family said her trip took an unexpected turn while she and her daughter were on the way to visit Ava’s father, 32-year-old Donizete Machado. After flying to Rio de Janeiro in late May, Hadden got a phone call from a friend in Brazil who knows both mother and father warning her not to make the last flight to meet Machado, her mother, Linda Hadden, said Friday.
The friend said that Machado had plans to keep Ava and that the two should not make the rest of the trip, for which Machado had already bought the tickets, according to Linda Hadden. Instead of taking a flight to southern Brazil to meet Machado, her daughter and granddaughter flew north to stay with friends in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.
But on June 6, federal police came to them with a court order and took both passports, according to Ava’s maternal grandmother, who said her daughter gave up the travel documents because she was scared Brazilian authorities were going to take Ava.
A Brazilian judge turned down Machado’s request for full custody of Ava but said authorities would not give back the passports until the father had a supervised visit with the child, according to the grandmother.
On Friday, a lawyer for Machado confirmed the passports were confiscated after the father’s legal request and said the case would be dropped as soon as the mother agreed to let Ava meet her father.
It is common in Brazil for officials to confiscate the passports of parents if a judge feels there is a chance that a mother or father may try to take a child out of the country without the other parent’s permission.
Besides having no passports, the mother and daughter have been put on a no-fly list by Brazilian authorities, Linda Hadden said.
In an e-mail to the Associated Press on Friday, Shauna Hadden said she and her daughter are stressed and want to come home.
‘‘Ava is tired and having a hard time,’’ she said.
Alessandro Saraiva, a Brazilian federal court spokesman, said he could not provide details because the case involves a minor and falls under secrecy laws. Brazil’s federal police declined to comment. The US Embassy in Brasilia would confirm only that Hadden is in Fortaleza and is receiving consular services.
US Senator Elizabeth Warren and US Representative Richard Neal, both of Massachusetts, said they have been trying to intervene in an effort to get mother and daughter back to the United States.