from Mobile Circuit Court (CV-12-901861) AA
Campbell appeals from an order of the Mobile Circuit Court
adjudicating J.R.C., J.L.C., R.L.C., and J.H.S., minor
children, as the heirs of the estate of her son, Remano L.
Campbell. We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
died intestate in October 2011, the victim of a homicide
perpetrated by his wife, Eugenia Campbell. At the time of his
death, Remano was the insured under a $200, 000
life-insurance policy issued by United of Omaha Life
Insurance Company ("Omaha"). The policy lists
Eugenia as the beneficiary, and Eugenia filed a claim for the
proceeds of the policy. Because of the circumstances
surrounding Remano's death and, more specifically, the
existence of a pending criminal investigation, Omaha,
pursuant to Rule 22, Ala. R. Civ. P., filed an interpleader
action against Eugenia and Remano's estate, depositing
the proceeds from the policy plus interest into an escrow
account with the circuit court and requesting that the court
determine the heirs of Remano's estate, who would
possibly be entitled to the proceeds of the
policy. The circuit court thereafter appointed an
administrator ad litem to represent Remano's estate
pursuant to § 43-2-250, Ala. Code 1975.
August 2016, Eugenia pleaded guilty in connection with
Remano's murder; accordingly, the proceeds of the
insurance policy were payable as though she had predeceased
Remano. § 43-8-253(c), Ala. Code 1975. Because Eugenia
is not considered to be Remano's surviving spouse, the
proceeds of the insurance policy would pass to Remano's
issue; if there is no surviving issue, then to his parent or
parents equally. See § 43-8-42, Ala. Code 1975. In this
case, Remano and Eugenia were legally married in June 2002.
During their marriage, Remano and Eugenia had three
children--J.R.C., J.L.C., and R.L.C. (hereinafter referred to
collectively as "the Campbell children"). Eugenia
also had another child, J.H.S., who was born approximately 18
months before her marriage to Remano and who lived with
Remano and Eugenia throughout their marriage.
Eugenia's conviction, Patricia, Remano's mother,
petitioned the Mobile Probate Court for letters of
administration. In her petition, as amended, Patricia alleged
that she was an heir of Remano and that the Campbell children
and J.H.S. were only purported heirs because, she claimed,
they were not Remano's biological children. Virginia G.
Chouinard, the guardian ad litem for the minor children,
objected to Patricia's petition, asserting that, because
Patricia was challenging the legitimacy of the minor
children, she would have a conflict representing Remano's
January 2017, the administrator ad litem of Remano's
estate filed a complaint in the interpleader action, seeking
a judgment declaring that the Campbell children and J.H.S.
were Remano's heirs and thus were entitled to the
life-insurance proceeds. The circuit court, at the
administrator ad litem's request, appointed Chouinard,
the guardian ad litem for the minor children in the probate
court, as the guardian ad litem for the minor children in the
February 2017, the probate court issued letters of
administration to Frank H. Kruse, the general administrator
of Mobile County ("the administrator"), who
intervened in the interpleader action and petitioned the
circuit court to appoint a separate guardian ad litem for
J.H.S. and, following a hearing, to enter an order
determining the heirs of the estate. The circuit court
appointed Mary Carol Ladd as the guardian ad litem for J.H.S.
2017, the administration of Remano's estate was removed
from the probate court to the circuit court, where it was
consolidated with the interpleader action.
July 2017, Patricia petitioned the circuit court, pursuant to
the Alabama Uniform Parentage Act, § 26-17-101 et seq.,
Ala. Code 1975 ("the AUPA"), for an order
establishing the paternity of the Campbell children and
J.H.S. After conducting a hearing, the circuit court entered
an order adjudicating the Campbell children and J.H.S. to be
Remano's heirs and further finding that Patricia lacked
standing to challenge the paternity of the
children. Accordingly, the circuit court ordered
disbursement of the insurance proceeds in the interpleader
action and directed that the estate administration be
remanded to the probate court. Patricia filed a postjudgment
motion, which was denied. This appeal followed.
Standard of Review
"To the extent the circuit court made factual findings
based on oral testimony, those factual findings are entitled
to deference by this Court under the ore tenus standard of
review. Under that standard, '"we must accept as
true the facts found by the trial court if there is
substantial evidence to support the trial court's
findings."' Allsopp v. Bolding, 86 So.3d
952, 959 (Ala. 2011) (quoting Beasley v. Mellon Fin.
Servs. Corp., 569 So.2d 389, 393 (Ala. 1990)). This
standard is based on a recognition of the trial court's
unique position of being able to evaluate the credibility of
witnesses and to assign weight to their testimony. See, e.g.,
Justice v. Arab Lumber & Supply, Inc., 533 So.2d
538, 543 (Ala. 1988). The deference owed a trial court under
the ore tenus standard of review, however, does not extend to
the trial court's decisions on questions of law.
Appellate review of questions of law, as well as whether the
trial court has properly applied that law to a given set of
facts, is de novo. See, e.g., Ex parte Graham, 702
So.2d 1215, 1221 (Ala. 1997)."
Wehle v. Bradley, 195 So.3d 928, 934 (Ala. 2015).
begin our analysis with the Campbell children, who were born
during Remano and Eugenia's marriage. As indicated, the
circuit court concluded that Patricia lacked standing under
the AUPA to challenge the paternity of those children. The
AUPA addresses judicial determinations of paternity in
general and excepts from its scope matters concerning
legitimation and adoption. See § 26-17-103, Ala. Code 1975.
See also Clemons v. Howard, 124 So.3d 738, 746 (Ala.
Civ. App. 2013)(holding that the AUPA also excepts from its
scope § 43-8-48(2)b., Ala. Code 1975, a part of the
Uniform Probate Code, providing that, "'[i]f, for
purposes of intestate succession, a relationship of parent
and child must be established to determine succession by,
through, or from a person[, ]' a child born out of
wedlock is the child of the father if '[t]he paternity is
established by an adjudication before the death of the father
or is established thereafter by clear and convincing
case, it is undisputed that the Campbell children were not
adopted or born out of wedlock; thus, any issue concerning
their paternity can be resolved by applying the applicable
provisions of the AUPA. Specifically, because the Campbell
children were born during the legal marriage of Remano and
their mother, they are entitled to the presumption of
paternity stated in § 26-17-204(a)(1), Ala. Code 1975, a
part of the AUPA. Section 26-17-204(a)(1) provides that
"[a] man is presumed to be the father of a child if ...
he and the mother of the child are married to each other and
the child is born during the marriage." The presumption
of paternity established by § 26-17-204(a)(1) may be
rebutted in an appropriate action by clear and convincing
evidence. See § 26-17-601 et seq., Ala. Code 1975.
Section 26-17-602, Ala. Code 1975, identifies a broad range
of individuals and agencies who have standing to bring a
paternity action, including in § 26-17-602(7) "any
interested person." Patricia asserts that, because she
is a potential heir of Remano's estate, she has standing
to challenge the paternity of the Campbell children. Although