BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Languages
Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 01:10 GMT 02:10 UK
Boy's historic bid to 'divorce' father
by Chris Summers
BBC News Online

A 14-year-old boy in the United States is seeking to become the first child to divorce his father.

Patrick Holland is not taking this action lightly. This is no spat about pocket money or homework.

Patrick Holland
Patrick Holland wants to divorce his killer father
Patrick's mother, Liz, was murdered by his father, Daniel Holland, in October 1998.

It was a horrific killing - he broke into her home in Quincy, Massachusetts, chased her up the stairs, shot her eight times and then clubbed her around the head with a rifle butt before leaving her body for her son to discover the following morning.

Patrick says he believes his father lost the right to be a parent because of what he did that night.

Holland is serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center.

But until Patrick reaches the age of 18, his father has the right to have access to his reports about his schooling and even from his weekly counselling sessions.

Resents father

Patrick deeply resents this and on 26 July his lawyers will go to court in Canton, Massachusetts in an attempt to terminate his father's parenting rights.

After his mother was murdered Patrick went to live with her close friends, Ron and Rita Lazisky. They have since become his legal guardians after winning a custody battle with Patrick's paternal grandparents.

His father took his mother away from him in a brutal manner and he wants to say: 'I want nothing to do with you'
Ron Lazisky
Patrick's legal guardian
Mr Lazisky, a 51-year-old chemical engineer with four grown children of his own, said: "Patrick's father asked to know how he was doing at school, especially in sports, and how his counselling was going.

"Patrick said he didn't want him to know but the social services people said it was the law. He had no choice.

"After that Patrick said he didn't want that happening again. He wanted to divorce his father.

"You might say: 'Why bother, when he only has four years to wait?' but to a teenager four years sounds like forever.

"His father took his mother away from him in a brutal manner and he wants to say: 'I want nothing to do with you'."

Mr Lazisky said he was initially reluctant to take on Patrick. But, speaking from his home in Sandown, New Hampshire, he sad: "There was no question in our minds that we should do it for Liz.

"She gave her life up for Patrick. She would not go underground and live in a women's shelter because she did not want to disrupt her son's life.

"He is a great kid. He's bright and articulate and has matured well beyond his age. He has lost a lot of his childhood. He was only eight when this happened."

Estranged

Patrick's parents had been estranged and were in the process of getting divorced when his mother was killed.

Liz Holland
Liz Holland was shot eight times and beaten with a rifle butt
She had obtained a restraining order to keep Holland away but he broke into her home by throwing a bag of golf clubs through a window.

Mr Lazisky said any of the 10 bullets Holland fired could have gone through the wall and killed his sleeping son.

He said: "He knew his son was going to find his dirty work in the morning. That is not being a parent. That is abuse of the worst kind."

Mr Lazisky said Liz was a "ray of sunshine" and a "hard worker" who had gone back to school and got a degree to enable her to work as a surgical nurse and look after Patrick financially.

"She was trying to regain her self-esteem and her independence," he said.

Three years ago Patrick was set to visit his father in prison - he wanted to confront him over his mother's killing - but it was cancelled when Holland's lawyer insisted on sitting in on the visit.

Mr Lazisky told BBC News Online: "That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Patrick had already mentioned that he wanted to divorce his father and I said 'Let's see what we can do'.

'Unprecedented'

"This is completely unprecedented. Government agencies frequently take away parental rights but what would make this a landmark decision, if he won, is that it's a child who precipitated this."

Patrick watering memorial garden
Patrick tends a memorial garden to his mother in Sandown, New Hampshire
Earlier this year a Massachusetts judge threw the case out, claiming it should have been filed in New Hampshire, where Patrick now lives.

But the Massachusetts Department of Social Services intervened and Judge Robert Langlois changed his mind.

Patrick will have to testify in court about his feelings towards his father.

His father will be present in court throughout although the judge has said he must follow proceedings by video link on the day Patrick gives evidence.

The case could last until September.

Therapy

Asked if the publicity surrounding the case was not damaging to Patrick, Mr Lazisky said: "No. Quite the opposite. His therapist supports it. Patrick appears on talk shows a lot and the therapist says Patrick is getting his own therapy talking about these things."

A gagging order has been imposed on Patrick ahead of Monday's trial.

A Massachusetts Department of Social Services spokeswoman said they too could not comment on the case but she added: "We support Patrick in his endeavours every step of the way."

Holland's lawyer, Patricia Gorman, was unavailable for comment but he is known to be determined to hold onto his parental rights.

One interested observer of the outcome of the court case is Twentieth Century Fox, who are in discussions about making a film based on Patrick's ordeal.




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific