Anna Nicole Smith: Disorder in the Courts

ByABC News
March 20, 2007, 10:58 AM

March 20, 2007 — -- The Anna Nicole Smith saga has spawned so many individual legal battles that it's hard to keep up with them all.

For starters, there is of course the mother of all Smith legal battles -- the paternity fight.

While a number of men have laid claim to fathering Smith's baby, Dannielynn, most veteran Smith observers believe it will come down to Larry Birkhead and Howard K. Stern, with the odds heavily favoring Birkhead as the real father.

What's made the paternity question so compelling is another, ongoing legal battle that could see Dannielynn Smith inherit hundreds of millions of dollars from the estate of Smith's second husband, the late Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall. Marshall's will has been disputed in court for years.

Then there's the custody fight. Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, was in a Bahamian court last week trying to wring custody of the baby away from Stern, who she says is an unfit father, if he is even the biological father at all. Another hearing on the custody battle is scheduled Tuesday in the Bahamas.

And while Bahamian and Florida police have both insisted that their ongoing probe into Smith's death is not a murder investigation, new evidence they turned up was enough to delay a Florida medical examiner from announcing his findings last week. Bahamian police met with Florida investigators last week at the hotel where Smith died.

And finally, there is the inquest into Smith's son Daniel's death, which begins next week.

Oh, and don't forget the Bahamian court battle over Horizons, the Nassau home that Stern is fighting to keep amid claims he failed to pay back a loan made to Smith for the house.

It's looking like Larry Birkhead may in fact be the father of Dannielynn.

By virtually all accounts, Howard K. Stern is on the ropes, legally speaking.

All the participants in both the paternity hearings and the custody battles appear to have been barred by a judge from speaking to the press. But reports have surfaced in some newspapers and television tabloids that Stern has quietly offered Birkhead a series of deals to avoid a paternity test.

If the coverage is to be believed, Birkhead has reportedly refused a deal that would grant him full custody and acknowledged fatherhood of Dannielynn in return for giving up the control of the estate, which would be administrated by Stern.