Shauna Hadden, from Agawam, met Brazilian Donizete Machado in the US. The couple had daughter Ava in 2007 but divorced in 2009. The following year he was deported for being in the country illegally – something Shauna says she knew nothing about.
Nevertheless, Hadden re-established contact with ex-husband after his return to Brazil and father and daughter had regular conversations over Skype, the Mail reports.
In May this year, Shauna agreed to take Ava to Brazil so she could meet her father and his family. Shauna’s mother Linda Hadden told ABC News:
“She has full custody of Ava. He lives in Brazil. Shauna planned a trip on May 21 where she would take Ava to visit her father and extended family in Brazil. We thought it was a great opportunity for Ava to learn about her heritage.”
Machado bought tickets for mother and daughter, but when they landed in Brazil Hadden says she received a call warning her not to travel to her ex-husband’s town. She went to stay with friends in the north instead but became increasingly concerned by messages from her ex-husband and decided to return to the US. She then discovered that her return ticket had been cancelled.
Not long afterwards, she also learned that Machado had filed for custody of their daughter. Her and Ava’s passports was confiscated by armed police, stranding her in the country.
Mother Linda described the scene:
“They had guns and demanded that they take Ava’s passport. They said they were carrying out an order from a judge to get Ava’s passport. Shauna was scared and didn’t know what to do. She gave them Ava’s passport and her own too.”.
The 32 year-old has now set up a Facebook page to raise awareness of her plight. Called Trapped In Brazil, it has attracted more than 3,300 likes.
Shauna has hired a local lawyer to pursue her case, and spoken frequently to the local media as she is fluent in Portuguese. She fears that she will forced to leave Brazil without her daughter if the dispute is not resolved by the time her temporary tourist visa expires in the autumn.
Her mother, meanwhile, has been in touch with the US State Department and the Brazilian government. Linda said:
‘We just want them both to come home safely. We have no ill will towards anyone.”
Machado’s initial request for immediate custody of his daughter was refused by the courts but he has been granted a supervised visit.
Photo of the Brazilian flag by Andre Maceira under a Creative Commons licence