The weeks following the death of Anna Nicole Smith have been busy ones for news correspondents and others trying to get their arms around California’s complicated paternity rules. Since her death, at least four men have come forward and declared that they are the father of Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn. Smith’s longtime lawyer and apparent lover, Howard K. Stern is named on the infant’s birth certificate. However, former boyfriends Larry Birkhead, Frederic Von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and her bodyguard have all filed separate paternity actions in California court.

After her death, Smith’s will was made public. The will is somewhat of a legal train wreck in that it creates more questions than it answers. However, at the end of the day, it is likely that the court that ultimately decides the probate matter could award Smith’s entire estate to her daughter, Dannielynn. Given that the estate could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, the motives of those claiming to be the infant’s father are suspect given that the court declared father will likely gain custody of Dannielynn and likely be in control of mobile casinos her astronomically large inheritance. As those following the court case will soon find out, California law surrounding parentage is far from simple and easy to understand.

California law separates fathers into two categories, the presumed father and the alleged father. If the birth mother is married (or the baby was born within 300 days of her divorce), her husband (or ex-husband) is the “presumed” father of the child. In addition, a man is “conclusively presumed” to be the father if he is both married to and living with the mother when the baby is born so long as he is not impotent or sterile. A Php Aide father can also be a presumed father if he took the child into his home, supported the child, and held the child out to be his own. Lastly, a man is also “presumed” to be the father if he signs a voluntary declaration of paternity stating he is the “biological father of the child”

A legal presumption is believed to be true by the court unless evidence shows otherwise (rebutted.) Typically, a court will not hear arguments stating that a “conclusive” presumption is false. However, an exception is made in the area of parentage. A “conclusively presumed” father can have the presumption challenged with blood tests showing that the father is not the biological father so long as the challenge and the tests are conducted within two years of the child’s birth. Given the amount of money that potentially is at stake and given the fact that anyone making a claim to be Dannielynn’s biological father will receive their fifteen minutes of fame, it is a safe bet that the paternity actions surrounding Dannielynn will rage on for years to come.

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