BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts woman who has been stranded in Brazil with her 6-year-old daughter because of a dispute with the girl's father expects to return home soon.
Representatives for both sides told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a Brazilian judge has decided to return the U.S. passports that federal police seized from the visitors from North America in early June.
"We are so happy and excited to leave," the woman, Shauna Hadden, told the AP in an email from Brazil. "We will be leaving as soon as we have our passports in hand."
The 33-year-old social worker has said she took her daughter, Ava Machado, to Brazil in May so the girl could reconnect with her father. But family said she changed her plans after landing in Brazil because she got a phone call from a friend warning that the father planned to keep the girl.
A lawyer for the father, 32-year-old Donizete Machado, disputed that he wanted custody of the little girl. The attorney, Isabel Feijo, said last week that her client asked authorities to seize the two passports because Hadden hadn't let him visit with Ava.
The lawyer also claimed Hadden used airline tickets Machado paid for to fly over and meet a boyfriend.
Hadden's mother, Linda Hadden, has called that claim ridiculous. She said Wednesday that her daughter offered to pay all expenses so Machado could go and see Ava in the city where the mother and daughter were staying in Brazil but he never agreed to the visit.
Linda Hadden said her daughter and granddaughter now hope to get their passports back Thursday and be home in Agawam, about 90 miles west of Boston, this weekend. She said she was pleased Ava will get to go to summer camp and will be able to start first grade as planned in the fall.
"It's certainly been a nightmare, but thankfully it's all working out," she said.
The family had sought help from State Department officials and Massachusetts politicians, including U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who said Wednesday after video-chatting with Shauna Hadden that the seizure of U.S. passports had gotten him "worked up."
Shauna Hadden also had started a Facebook page called "Trapped in Brazil" to call attention to the case.
The mother, who works for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, got full custody of her daughter when she and Machado divorced in 2009.
Feijo said Wednesday that her client became resigned to letting his daughter and ex-wife return to the United States "because he feels this is the beginning of a process that in the near future could guarantee him the right to visit his daughter."
The attorney also said the judge believed the passports had been kept too long and "the mother's right to custody is stronger than the father's right to visit with his daughter."
Shauna Hadden said Wednesday that she doesn't want her daughter to carry anger or hatred toward Machado, so she has tried to keep details of what's been happening from the child during the last several weeks.
"I tell Ava that her father loves her very much," the mother said.
It's common in Brazil for officials to confiscate the passports of parents if a judge feels there is a chance that a parent may try to take a child out of the country without permission.
The case wasn't the first time in recent years that parents in Brazil and the United States became embroiled in a custody dispute that attracted international attention.
In 2009, a New Jersey father returned to the United States with his 9-year-old son after a five-year battle to get him back. The boy's mother had taken him to South America for what was supposed to be a vacation before she stayed in Brazil with her son, divorced her husband and remarried, before dying in childbirth. The boy's father won back custody from his son's Brazilian stepfather.
Associated Press writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.