Florida Court Rules Anna Nicole Smith Remains Can't Be Moved to Bahamas

A Florida appeals court issued a stay in the fight over Anna Nicole Smith's body Monday, which means that her remains cannot be moved to the Bahamas for burial.

That decision counters another from last week to bury the model in the island country where she'd made her home in the months before she died Feb. 8. A weeklong hearing in Broward County, Fla., yielded numerous witness testimonies suggesting Smith wanted to be laid to rest in the Bahamas next to her late son Daniel.

Earlier Monday in Nassau, Bahamas, a Bahamian Supreme Court battle over who should get custody of 5-month-old daughter ended, with the hearing adjourned until March 16.

Smith's ex-boyfriend and estranged mother went to the Bahamas Supreme Court in Nassau to make their cases on why they each believe they should be awarded custody of the late model's baby, Dannielynn.

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"I hope to get to see her and have her soon," Larry Birkhead told reporters outside the Supreme Court building.

Virgie Arthur arrived after Birkhead in a white limousine. Asked why Arthur deserved custody, her attorney Deborah Rose said simply: "She's the grandmother."

Smith's most recent live-in boyfriend, Howard K. Stern — who is listed on the birth certificate as the baby's father — is also seeking custody of the child, who could inherit her mother's millions.

The Florida 4th District Court of Appeal agreed to hear Arthur's request to overturn a trial judge's decision giving control of Smith's body to the attorney for the centerfold's infant daughter. That attorney decided she should be buried next to her son in the Bahamas.

Arthur has been seeking to bury her daughter in her native Texas.

The court gave other attorneys in the case until 2 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the challenge.

Earlier Monday, Judge Larry Seidlin rejected Arthur's request to reconsider last week's ruling, saying he wanted to preserve Smith's dignity by having the funeral as soon as possible. Seidlin declined to speak to reporters.

Meanwhile, news surfaced that settlement negotiations have begun.

TMZ.com reported Monday that Stern and Birkhead may be heading for a settlement, with lawyers for both parties negotiating. The arrangement could give Birkhead custody of the baby with Stern remaining in Dannielynn's life as a trustee for the millions she stands to inherit.

Legal experts predict Birkhead will have a tough time convincing the justices of his case as Stern is listed on the birth certificate as Dannielynn's dad.

"There is a very strong legal presumption that what is stated in that document is accurate," said Thomas A. E. Evans, a prominent Bahamas attorney.

Birkhead, a Los Angeles-based photographer, also must contend with a competing claim from Arthur, who has said she could provide a more stable home for Dannielynn than Stern and should therefore be awarded custody of the girl — who could inherit a fortune.

Birkhead's lawyer Debra Opri would not confirm the settlement talks, according to TMZ.com, but she did note that DNA testing and the establishment of paternity would be required for a settlement to occur.

Dannielynn Smith, who was born in the Bahamas on Sept. 7, is staying at a gated, waterfront mansion in Nassau where Smith lived with Stern until the former Playboy Playmate died of unknown causes in Florida on Feb. 8.

Bahamas Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs dealt only with procedural matters at a private hearing Monday to determine Dannielynn's guardianship, said Wayne Munroe, an attorney for Smith's estate there.

Isaacs scheduled the next hearing for March between Arthur and Stern, who is listed as the father on the birth certificate. The judge has barred Stern from taking the girl out of the Bahamas until a custody ruling.

On Sunday, Opri lashed out upon her arrival in Nassau with Birkhead. "We're ready to fight," she said.

Evans said that there is no specific provision in Bahamian law, which is guided by local statutes and English Common Law, for a man to claim paternity based on DNA. But the court could determine any of those seeking to be the guardian of Dannielynn — or even another party, including the country's Department of Social Services — should have custody depending on the best interests of the child, he said.

Arthur's lawyer, Roberta G. Mandel, wrote in the appeal that Seidlin's ruling was an inconvenience because the mother would need a passport and airline tickets to visit Smith's grave.

Outside court, Mandel said Arthur was willing to take the fight to the state Supreme Court, if necessary.

"This mother is a mother who deserves the right to bury her child," Mandel said. "The trial court treated her as though she was nothing."

Ron Rale, an attorney for Stern, said Arthur should honor her daughter's wishes to be laid to rest in the Bahamas.

"I believe the testimony was clear where Anna Nicole wanted to be buried, and anything that obstructs that, to complete her wishes as soon as possible, is sad," Rale said.

The court-appointed attorney for Dannielynn said Saturday that the funeral would not take place before Tuesday.

Arthur would like her daughter to be buried in Texas, but Seidlin ruled on Thursday that the burial decision should be left to court-appointed attorney Richard C. Milstein, who announced she would be laid to rest in Nassau next to her 20-year-old son, Daniel — who died in the Bahamas in September just days after his mother gave birth to Dannielynn.

Seidlin said Monday he would not change his decision. Arthur had filed an emergency motion Friday asking Seidlin to reconsider his decision.

Milstein said during the weekend that he was working on funeral details for the former Playboy Playmate and reality TV star, who died in a Florida hotel Feb. 8 at age 39.

Her son's grave, an unmarked plot at the Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Nassau, has become a popular tourist spot — as is "Horizons," the gated, waterfront home in the capital's Winton neighborhood where Smith lived with Stern.

Dannielynn could inherit part of the fortune of Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, whom Smith married in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. She had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995.

A quick decision in the paternity case is not expected.

"They are not known for impromptu rulings," said Sidney Collie, an attorney and former Bahamian senator, about the former British colony's Supreme Court judges. "They are known for writing long, involved opinions."

In another Nassau courtroom Monday, a separate hearing was scheduled in a dispute over the home in Winton. Ben Thompson, a South Carolina developer who briefly dated Smith, says he advanced her money for the $900,000 house but she did not honor an agreement to pay the mortgage. She had claimed the house was a gift.

Godfrey Pinder, the attorney for Thompson, said Stern's refusal to leave the house prompted the action.

"He has no right being there," Pinder said of Stern. "He's an interloper."

"He has no business being there and he knows it," Pinder told FOX News.

Taxis have ferried a seemingly endless stream of gawkers to the house, where Stern has been sequestered with Dannielynn since he returned from Florida on Saturday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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