By Gerri Elder
In October 1998, Elizabeth Holland was murdered, allegedly by her husband, Daniel Holland. After Holland was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, his son Patrick sued to "divorce" him and terminate his parental rights, thus setting off a historical case and landmark decision.
Patrick Holland's life changed forever when he was eight years old. While Patrick was sleeping, Daniel Holland broke into the home where he and his mother lived. Daniel Holland beat Patrick's mother Elizabeth with the butt of a .22 caliber rifle and then shot and killed her.
Patrick slept through the murder and found his mother's dead body the next morning. When Patrick woke up and realized that his mother had not gotten him up for school, he went into her bedroom and found her lying face down in a pool of blood.
After Daniel Holland's murder conviction, Patrick filed a lawsuit to divorce his dad and asked a Massachusetts judge to terminate his parental rights. The case was pretty much the first of its kind, with few legal precedents for the judge to evaluate and weigh while making his decision.
Although Daniel Holland is serving a life sentence in prison with no possibility of parole for the murder, he was still able to obtain information about his son. He would occasionally request information from counselors, get transcripts of school records and seek updates on Patrick's social and sports activities. Patrick's permanent guardians, Ron and Rita Lazisky, were legally obligated to provide him with the information that he requested.
Patrick felt that his dad was too involved in his life and wished to cut all ties with him, so in 2002, he sued for what was roughly the equivalent of a divorce from his father. After many continuances and the case being dismissed and re-filed, a judge finally agreed with Patrick and granted him a divorce from his dad in a historical legal decision. When Patrick was 15, he was legally adopted by Ron and Rita Lazisky, who had been close friends of his mother.
Now 18 years old, Patrick is making an effort to help other children who are in similar circumstances. He has testified at the State House in Massachusetts in support of a bill which seeks to create legal options for children who have had one parent murdered by the other.
The bill is named "Patrick's Law" in honor of Patrick's story and the long legal battle that he went through to divorce his dad. The bill, if passed, will automatically terminate the parental rights of a parent who murders the other parent, unless the child chooses to maintain a relationship with the surviving parent, or if the surviving parent was the victim of domestic violence.
Similar laws exist in a few other states, and Patrick hopes that Massachusetts will be the next state to give more options to children in such tragic circumstances by allowing them to divorce a parent convicted of murdering their mom or dad.