Feb 12, 2018, 3:09 PM ET

Texas dad hopeful of son's return from Brazil after former in-laws jailed in 5-year international custody battle


A Texas doctor locked in a five-year international child custody battle says the arrests of his former in-laws by the FBI for their alleged role in his son’s removal from the United States was his last-ditch effort to bring his 8-year-old son back from Brazil.

Dr. Chris Brann of Houston today told ABC News’ "Good Morning America" that his former in-laws, Carlos Otavio Guimaraes, 67, and Jemima Guimaraes, 65, should have "absolutely" been arrested, saying there is clear evidence they are accessories in his former wife's alleged plot to keep him away from their son, Nicolas.

PHOTO: Christopher Brann and his son Nicolas are seen in an undated photograph. Court documents say that in July 2013, Nicolas went to Brazil with his mother for a wedding and has not returned to the US since then.Christopher Brann
Christopher Brann and his son Nicolas are seen in an undated photograph. Court documents say that in July 2013, Nicolas went to Brazil with his mother for a wedding and has not returned to the US since then.

His former in-laws were taken into custody Wednesday at the Miami International Airport and are being held in Florida on federal charges of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy.

"There's no doubt they should be included in this," Brann told “GMA” co-host Michael Strahan of having the parents of his ex-wife, Marcelle Guimaraes, arrested. "You have to understand that I did not take this decision lightly. It's certainly not something that I wanted to do, but I really felt like I didn't have any other options."

Rick Flowers, a Houston attorney who represents Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes in a civil case filed against them by Brann, said the couple's arrest is "absurd" and contended "international law gives Brazil the right to decide where the child lives."

"It was shocking," Flowers told ABC News, adding that the arrest of the couple was clearly intended by Brann to "leverage" a resolution in the child custody case.

His clients have nothing to do with keeping the child in Brazil, he said of Nicolas, whom the family calls Nico.

They have not yet entered a plea.

Brann's attorney, Jared Genser, said the couple's attorney and Marcelle Guimaraes' lawyer in Brazil "have no understanding" of the U.S. legal system.

"The case in Brazil is a civil case where the courts will narrowly and simply decide in what jurisdiction the rights of custody should be decided," Genser said. "Under international law, because Nico was wrongly taken, he must be returned to the U.S. A final decision on that case is still pending and on appeal to Brazil’s Supreme Court.

"The case in the United States is totally unrelated to the civil case in Brazil on where custody will be decided and is only about the alleged acts of the family acting in the U.S. to premeditate Nico’s abduction against Chris’s equal rights of custody in Texas, where the family court ordered that Nico’s residence could not be changed, and in fact was, without both parents and the court agreeing first.”

In July 2013, Brann, who shared custody with Marcelle Guimaraes, gave his ex-wife permission to take their son to her native Brazil for a family wedding. According to the criminal complaint, which included findings from FBI agent Christopher Petrowski, Marcelle Guimaraes was to take Nicolas to Brazil July 2 and return no later than July 20, 2013.

But the mother never returned the child to Texas.

In his affidavit, agent Petrowski said he believed Marcelle Guimaraes and her parents had removed Nicolas from the United States "with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights" and "conspired either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States."

The FBI agent said his investigation determined that Marcelle Guimaraes had premeditated the alleged abduction before their July 2013 flight to Brazil. She enrolled the child in her mother's school in Brazil in April 2013 for the 2013-2014 school year, Petrowski said, and had been offered a job at the school the following month.

Meanwhile, Petrowski said, Carlos Guimaraes made up excuses for why his daughter had not returned to the United States, telling Brann she was sick or awaiting medical tests. He also sent Brann an email that the boy would be returning home Aug. 4, 2013, the same day Marcelle Guimaraes' lawyer informed Brann his ex-wife and child were working to "establish permanent residence in Brazil.

Brann later learned that soon after she arrived in Brazil, his ex-wife was granted sole custody of Nicolas by a Brazilian judge without even sending him notice of the hearing, agent Petrowski said in his affidavit.

"It's about the hardest thing you can imagine because there's never any closure," Brann said of his ongoing fight to regain custody of his boy. "You know, if there were a death in the family or some other pivotal event, you can kind of bookend it and say that happened and then move on and grow from that, but this is an opportunity really where every chance that you get there's just more injury, there's more harm, there's more pain."

PHOTO: Christopher Brann and his son Nicolas are pictured in an undated photograph. According to a criminal complaint, Branns ex-wife Marcelle Guimaraes has allegedly kept Nicolas in her native Brazil for five years and away from his father. Christopher Brann
Christopher Brann and his son Nicolas are pictured in an undated photograph. According to a criminal complaint, Brann's ex-wife Marcelle Guimaraes has allegedly kept Nicolas in her native Brazil for five years and away from his father.

He said most days he goes to work and tries to be uplifting for his patients "when deep down inside, I'm suffering every single day."

Brann said he last saw his son two weeks ago when he went to Brazil, one of more than 20 trips he has taken to the country in his effort to bring the child home.

He said that like all visits with his son, it was at the discretion of his ex-wife. He said the visits are always in the "presence of armed guards, who watch him and report everything I do."

He described his home in Houston as "a mausoleum to his son."

"You know, everything in here reminds me of him, but I've stayed in this house in hopes that when he returns he'll have something that he'll remember that will trigger that emotional response of what it was like when he was here," Brann said.

He said he considered that the arrests of his son's grandparents might further drive a wedge between him and the child.

"Absolutely, there's that potential. There's no doubt that in these parental abductions, the classic story is the alienation part and certainly the abducting parent will use the child against the left-behind parent...," Brann said.

"And I certainly have that fear but, honestly, I've had that fear the whole time, which is why I have fought so hard to be a constant presence in my son's life over these last five years despite the challenges."

News - Texas dad hopeful of son's return from Brazil after former in-laws jailed in 5-year international custody battle

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  • Jennifer Gottfried

    I would never agree to interstate travel or international travel in a custodial situation. I've seen too many situations of the fleeing parent abducting the child and getting custody granted. The "left behind" parent has to fly interstate or internationally for court hearings and supervised visitstion. Hopefully the feds will get involve and get the child back to his father, and soon.

  • gryphon50

    I'm sorry but I think it's terrible idea to have kids with a foreigner. I've heard of too many cases like this.

  • Kirk McCraw

    I am so Sad for this Child, the Boy's Father and the intire Family that would commit such a civil right's issue to this little Boy, and his Father.
    This is common To Texas and the lack of interest in the Attorney Generals' office of Texas. Civil and Criminal issues are the same thing Here in Texas. the authorities in Texas Will Not recognize the Family in Texas. The Family is to be on it's own, and Good Luck if you are Divorced, Texas will take such a Back seat that a Parential issue like this is the only one Getting front Page attention.
    this is the tip of the ice burg and I could help you contact Hundreds of both mothers and Fathers who have been arrested for looking for their children in Texas.
    We have no recourse and are viewed to be as Flawed individuals for being so tragically and intensely affected be our own children used as possessions. These Children are not only taken to foreign countries, Many are in the same city, or county in Texas. Local officials " Police " are Powerless as the Attorney General as a Rule will not pick up these Offenses. Many People in Texas don't trust the Justice System. especially the Family Court. The Texas Attorney's Lobbying association has affectvly convenced the law makers, labeling the parents whom need this legislation to be Enforced, as Dead Beat Dad's, Mom's and Target the individuals as this common issue remains prolific.
    469 682 6789 if interested I can and would love to Help others.

    If this happened to a Texas Lawyer with connections to the Bar Association, it is immeadiatly resolved other wise you are on your own. The Texas Bar association is making Money, and that is the issue.

    Thank you for airing this Doctors Story.

  • John Smith

    Women are so kind and generous. They will allow you to impregnate them. They will allow you to provide for them and do the things they need done. But you say that you want to exercise your duties as a father and co-equal? Hey! Wait just a second. You can send a check on a regular basis but let's not get too radical about your rights as a father. As illustrated by one of the prolific posters below.

  • USAF Retired

    Folks need to be careful when they marry and have children with someone from another country.

  • helicohunter

    What a nightmare! I don't understand why more countries don't respect parental rights. Seems like a no brainer. Both parents should have access to a child unless one is legally determined to be unfit.

  • Lilium Inter Spinas

    Wouldn't we all feel like a bunch of wet food stamps if there turns out to be a good reason this kid was whisked away to Brazil? There's probably not, but we shouldn't take it for granted that Dad is automatically the "good guy" just because he's American and has a good job.

  • Lilium Inter Spinas

    Custody battles are always an undignified, nasty MESS. I can't imagine that would become less so when another country is involved. I hope this kid ends up with the right parent, whoever that may actually be!

  • EastCoastGirl

    Something to consider having children with anyone who has citizenship elsewhere.

  • Tim Liu

    Not surprised, but he should have heard of the 2004 David Goldman case which was similar in nature. The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction and Prevention Act was signed by Obama that year, and that was probably how the FBI got involved in this case.

  • JuPMod

    It's why I think people should be wary of having children with foreigners from countries that do not care for parental rights of the parent left behind. I read of similar cases of American men with Japanese wives, who fled back to Japan and took the children with them. Japan, like Brazil, does not care for the Americans' rights.

  • Juggles

    I don't understand how people can't see how custody disputes like this ultimately effect the child... So very sorry that thee 2 parents can't be civil and allow their son to be a part of both of their lives.

  • leezee

    I would hesitate to ever marry and begin a family with a Brazilian. Sounds crazy, but if your relationship goes south, and they take the child to Brazil, the courts there will consider the child a Brazilian and do everything in their power to keep the child there. Remember the case a few years back where the Brazilian wife took the child she had with an American back to Brazil, didn't come back, divorced the American, married a wealthy Brazilian.....?. During all of this, the Brazilian courts constantly ruled against the American and would not honor any visitation agreements presented. The Brazilian mom died in childbirth and even then, the Brazilian courts ruled the American's child must stay with the step-father. It was crazy and it wasn't until the US Secretary of State stepped in that the father ended up with custody. I hope everything works out for this guy and he can build a good relationship with his son.