Anna Nicole's Girl Deserves Normal Childhood, Not One Lived in Court

The purpose of a guardian, whether they are a biological or adoptive parent, an extended family member or even court appointed, is to protect the best interests of the child. Tragically, in the case of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s three-year old daughter, Dannielynn, the lure of a multi-million dollar payday is overriding the basic needs of the child; leading a group of greedy adults to put her at risk emotionally.

The tabloid tale of Smith is well known. Famous primarily for being famous, her 14-month marriage to 89-year old Texas millionaire J. Howard Marshall degenerated into 15 years of trials, court decisions and appeals, all designed to pocket an outsized share of his estate. Even after Anna Nicole’s death, the relatives, publicists and lawyers who have attached themselves to her heir, Dannielynn, continue the fight.

On March 19th, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Texas Probate court and ruled that Smith’s estate was not entitled to any of the Marshall fortune. Marshall had provided her with over $6 million dollars worth of gifts -- including a ranch, several houses, jewelry, and cash -- over their brief relationship, but she was not included in the plans for his estate.

After an exhausting 15 years-worth of expensive litigation, Smith’s attorneys refuse to concede to the rule of law. Smith’s personal attorney turned boyfriend Howard K. Stern, along with Dannielynn’s father Larry Birkhead, won’t take “no” for an answer. Even though they have pushed the case from court to appeals court to the Supreme Court and back down again (ending with a clear rejection of their argument), they still appear intent on continuing their legal battle against the estate under the guile of Dannielynn’s best interest. But if they had any real interest in the welfare of this innocent child, they would abandon their course of action immediately and fully.

Countless books and articles have portrayed the difficulties the children of famous parents suffer during their formative years. Birkhead continues to sell pictures of Dannielynn to the tabloids, exploiting her and using her for a share of the wealth. She is continually placed in the spotlight but obviously has done nothing to bring this incessant media exposure upon herself. While she may be too young to realize it now, it appears that these men are using Dannielynn as a pawn to keep this battle going for their own financial benefit.

As a clinical psychologist, I have extensive experience dealing in cases concerning celebrity children. The case of Dannielynn raises a red flag. Individuals who should be protecting her best interests only seem interested in the money pursuing this estate challenge will bring them. Dannielynn’s psychological and emotional well-being could easily be affected by the hoopla surrounding this legal battle.

Her ability to trust those in her life is being damaged.

She, just like her mother, may continually question why people are in her life. Is it for her money? In the case of Anna Nicole it was about her beauty, fame and access she provided those in her entourage. Dannielynn lost a brother and her mother due to emotional issues created, in part, by those now caring for her, such as Howard K. Stern. My hope is that she has a chance of growing up to be a normal, well-adjusted young woman. But given the current legal battle sadly, I have serious concerns regarding her future.

Even in the unlikely event that Stern and Birkhead are successful and win a significant settlement, could it possibly be worth the price Dannielynn will have to pay? Yes, she may stand to gain monetarily (depending on what is left after the lawyers and relatives get theirs), but no amount of money can buy back her childhood.

The sooner this case is over the better it will be for Dannielynn emotionally. If her father and his attorney can’t see that, the court system should explain it to them once and for all.


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