DNA test results revealed on Tuesday that Larry Birkhead is the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter Dannielynn. But what’s next for the 7-month-old?
Birkhead has yet to gain custody of the little girl – a hurdle complicated by a claim made by Smith’s mother, Virgie Arthur, PEOPLE reports in its new issue.
But Birkhead’s former rival in the paternity case, Smith’s companion Howard K. Stern, has indicated that he’s on Birkhead’s side, even giving him a hug outside the Bahamas courthouse after the results were announced.
“We’re gonna do what we can to make sure that the best interests of Dannielynn are carried out,” Stern told reporters. “And I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure that he gets sole custody.”
Asked if he’d allow Birkhead to see Dannielynn right away, Stern said, “Larry can come over to the house and spend as much time with her as he wants to right now.”
And according to TMZ.com, Birkhead and his family did later visit Dannielynn and Stern at their home for an emotional and happy reunion.
But ultimately, it’s up to the court to decide who will get custody of Dannielynn. Birkhead’s attorney, Emrick Knowles, told reporters on Tuesday that the judge had not yet made a ruling about custody, and that they would be back in court on Friday afternoon.
The court will be charged with determining Birkhead’s fitness as a father, a source familiar with Bahamian law tells PEOPLE, adding: “Even though someone is the biological father, that doesn’t mean he gets custody.”
On Wednesday, Birkhead told the Today show from the Bahamas that he did not want another legal fight.
“We might go from one fight to another, but I’m hoping that’s not the case because, you know, there’s only one dad, and I have no problem with anyone that has good intentions being allowed to visit the baby and see the baby and be a part of the baby’s life,” he said.
But he added that he did not plan to share legal custody of Dannielynn: “It would imply that I’m unfit as a parent, which I’m not. I’m looking forward to giving Dannielynn everything that she needs and all the love and support.”
There is also the question of whether Birkhead, as Dannielynn’s biological father, is now in a position to take up Smith’s battle over a piece of the estimated $1.6 billion estate left by her second husband, Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall II.
Though legal experts see potential for both Birkhead and Stern – Birkhead as the father of Anna’s surviving child, and Stern as the executor of Smith’s yet-to-be-filed will – the Marshalls have vowed to fight back vigorously.
And what kind of future lies ahead for Dannielynn? Birkhead has stocked up on baby clothes and spruced up his one-bedroom townhouse in Burbank as well as garnered promises from his sister to help out with the child rearing. He is also said to be weighing a move with his daughter to his more sedate home state of Kentucky.
Smith may have coveted the limelight, but, says Birkhead friend Ford Shelley, “He doesn’t want the child in all the glamour and glitz. He wants the child to have a good upbringing.”
• Reporting by HOWARD BREUER and SIOBHAN MORRISSEY