Genesee Circuit Court’s ADAPT Program Gains Ground
On November 14, 2014, Judge Richard Yuille signed an order implementing the ADAPT Pilot Program in Genesee County. ADAPT is the shortened name for a program officially known as Acquiring DNA and Paternity Timely.
This program was designed to quickly establish paternity of children born out of wedlock. It has a secondary goal of reducing the adversarial nature of paternity proceedings. As the primary goal of establishing paternity is to collect child support and provide fathers with parenting time, the program also provides participants with access to the resources they need to successfully raise their children.
The ADAPT program is the brainchild of Genesee Circuit Judge Duncan M. Beagle and John Battles, the Director of the Genesee County Friend of the Court. Judge Beagle has been on the bench in Genesee County since 1991; he was assigned to the Family Division at its inception in 1998.
In addition to his assignment to the Family Division, Judge Beagle also presides over truancy proceedings, and the Family Dependency Drug Court. Mr. Battles has served as the Friend of the Court director since 2006. Prior to that, he represented children in the Family Drug Court, and worked as a managing attorney handling child abuse and neglect cases.
Both men utilized their resources and assembled a partnership that included the State Court Administrative Office, the Office of Child Support, the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Hurley Medical Center.
Hurley Medical Center provided the vital missing component-early access to the parents who would benefit from the program. Rather than waiting until after the child is born, staff at Hurley are able to provide information to eligible participants at their prenatal appointments, thus beginning the process well before the child is born.
This program has been a success. In the first year, more than 500 families met with Friend of the Court employees for educational sessions at Hurley Medical Center. A recently released report indicates that paternity was frequently established when the child was two months old, rather than at age 3, the average age under the traditional system.
Establishing paternity early in a child’s life allows fathers to be involved from the beginning with custody, parenting time, and support orders all entered for the benefit of the child. Studies have shown that parents who have frequent and regular parenting time with their children are more willing to provide support for their children. Establishing custody and parenting time orders as well as a support order increases the likelihood that the parent will pay their child support.
ADAPT also provides for a less adversarial process than the traditional process for establishing paternity. Rather than filing a lawsuit the parties participating in the program sign an ADAPT waiver. An informal meeting takes place approximately four weeks after the child is born where the parties work together with the Friend of the Court, the prosecutor’s office, and the Court to come to an agreement on custody, parenting time, and child support.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement, they are eligible for further services through the program. These services can include anger management, substance abuse counseling, educational services, and job training, all depending on the needs of the parties.