You are currently viewing Let’s Clear A Few Things Up; The Bachelor Update 4/4/24
David S. Gingras, Esq.

Let’s Clear A Few Things Up; The Bachelor Update 4/4/24

It’s impossible to cover everything in a single post, so I want to take a minute to break something down about what is happening in the Owens v. Echard (Bachelor) case.

As explained yesterday, Clayton Echard withdrew his Motion for Sanctions against Laura Owens. What does that mean? It just means Clayton has withdrawn (dropped) the motion he filed back in January asking the court to punish Laura for lying about being pregnant.

Does that mean the case is over? NO.

Does that mean Laura didn’t lie? NO.

Does that mean the court isn’t going to punish someone for lying? NO.

All those issues remain on the table for the judge to resolve.

The only change in the case is that Laura claimed there was a technical problem with the original sanctions motion Clayton filed. Clayton’s lawyer disputed this, but rather than fighting about it (not every dispute is worth fighting over, even when you’re right), Clayton agreed to withdraw his original motion. He remains free to still ask for sanctions in other ways.

Now, what’s next? We have a very short trial (2 hours) set for June 10th. The issues for trial are very narrow. So let’s try to get a grip on what is, and what is not, going to happen.

First, Laura started this case by filing a “PETITION FOR COURT ORDER FOR PATERNITY”. In legal terms, this is called an “establishment petition”. What that means is Laura was asking the court to make a finding that: A.) she was pregnant, and B.) Clayton was the father. Put differently, she wanted the court to establish Clayton was the father of her unborn child/children.

As everyone knows, Clayton denies Laura was pregnant and he denies he was the father. He says he never actually had sex with Laura. You need to wait and hear what he says about this on the stand, under oath, because it may not be exactly what you were expecting.

For her part, Laura will say she did have sex with Clayton, and after that happened, she tested positive for pregnancy at least 5 times. And for the record — Clayton has argued that a “HPT” (home pregnancy test) is somehow not proof that a woman is pregnant.

What he probably means is that an HPT is not conclusive proof that a woman is pregnant. And to save him any surprise — Laura agrees 100%. It is absolutely possible to have a false positive on a test. But how common is that? Consider this:

According to pregnancy kit manufacturers, most at-home pregnancy tests are 98% to 99% accurate when you use them exactly as instructed. Positive results can be trusted, but you can get a false negative result if you take the test too soon. Blood tests tend to be more expensive and inconvenient.


So yes, if Clayton argues HTP’s are not 100% accurate, he will get no pushback from Laura, because that’s true. The tests are only about 98% or 99% accurate, so if Laura took ONE test, there is a 1 or 2% chance she wasn’t pregnant (bear in mind, Laura took multiple HPT tests, and they all showed the same thing).

For the record — there is NO requirement that a woman obtain a 100% reliable pregnancy test before she files a paternity action. In fact, there is no requirement that the woman have any pregnancy test at all. The ONLY requirement under Arizona law is that the woman must have some plausible basis to think she is pregnant. That could be something as simple as: she had sex, missed a period, and is experiencing symptoms of pregnancy (weight gain, morning sickness, etc.) So basically, while a positive test is nice, it is absolutely, positively NOT a prerequisite to filing a paternity action.

In addition, it’s important to note — Laura’s belief she was pregnant was NOT based solely on HTPs. She also had a blood test done (which is arguably more reliable). That test was also positive.

In this extremely odd situation, here is what I expect will happen at trial. Technically, Laura is still the “petitioner” (kind of like the plaintiff). That means we will get to go first at trial. But every issue raised in Laura’s petition is moot because she claims she had a miscarriage in November 2023. Thus, she is no longer pregnant, there is no baby or babies on the way, and thus there is no issue of paternity for the court to establish. That is all moot now (and courts generally will not resolve moot issues).

I plan to explain all this to the judge, and I will ask her to simply dismiss Laura’s paternity petition as moot. That doesn’t mean she “loses”; it just means there is no remaining issue of paternity for the court to decide.

For his part, Clayton is not satisfied with this outcome. He wants more. He has asked the court to give him something called an order (or judgment) of “non-paternity” (sort of the inverse of establishing paternity). Basically, he wants the court to say he is not the father (despite that issue being moot), and he wants the court to go even further by making a finding that Laura was never actually pregnant to begin with.

This is one of the most misunderstood aspects of this case, so I want to make something VERY clear — in litigation, when a party takes a position or makes a claim, the person making the claim generally bears the “burden of proof” on that issue. What that means is if you claim something is true, you have to prove it is true with admissible evidence. If you fail to meet your burden of proof, the court will find against you on whatever issue you were trying to prove.

In this case, Laura is no longer claiming to be pregnant, so that issue is moot. She has mountains of proof that she was pregnant (despite claims to the contrary). However, she agrees it is impossible for the court to establish that Clayton is (was) the father, because DNA tests conducted in the case were inconclusive, and there is no longer any fetus to test. This is why Laura asked to dismiss the case back in December 2023.

Let me explain why this matters. Arizona law provides a set of rules for how paternity can be established. This is normally done by DNA testing, and it is important to understanding exactly what the law says about this….so take a look for yourself (here is the full statute):

A. A man is presumed to be the father of the child if:

1. He and the mother of the child were married at any time in the ten months immediately preceding the birth or the child is born within ten months after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity or dissolution of marriage or after the court enters a decree of legal separation.

2. Genetic testing affirms at least a ninety-five per cent probability of paternity.

3. A birth certificate is signed by the mother and father of a child born out of wedlock.

4. A notarized or witnessed statement is signed by both parents acknowledging paternity or separate substantially similar notarized or witnessed statements are signed by both parents acknowledging paternity.

See point #2 there? In most paternity cases (and yes, this is NOT my first one), the issue of paternity requires DNA testing to be performed, and the test results must come back showing a 95% probability match to the alleged father. If that happens, the court will issue an order finding paternity has been legally established.

In our case, the DNA tests were “inconclusive”. That means they did not have enough tissue to give a meaningful result (which is different from saying the test affirmatively excluded Clayton as the father). Because Laura was the petitioner in this paternity case, and because she cannot show a DNA test with a 95% probability that Clayton was the father, the court is going to conclude that paternity was not shown here.

That just leaves Clayton’s “counterclaim” in which he asks for an affirmative finding that he was NOT the father. But remember – the party who makes a claim bears the burden of proving that claim. And since Arizona’s paternity statutes generally require a VERY high degree of proof, it is unclear how Clayton plans to meet that burden at trial.

YES – Clayton’s testimony about all this IS still evidence. But by asking the court for a specific factual finding in his favor, what Clayton is doing is similar to a contested paternity case in which the alleged father walks into court and tells the judge: “The mom claims I am the father of her child, but I deny this and I want you to rule in my favor based solely on my word.” Because on the issue of Clayton’s paternity, his word (and Laura’s rebuttal) is the only evidence the court is going to hear.

No family law judge anywhere in the country would make a decision of non-paternity based solely on the father’s denial. But that is what Clayton is seeking.

The point here is that given the unusual posture of this case, Laura’s position is that if Clayton wants the court to find that Laura was never pregnant and/or that Clayton was never the biological father, those are issues Clayton must prove. He bears the burden on both of those matters, and the standard of evidence the court will likely apply is VERY high — it’s called “clear and convincing” proof.

As I keep saying, everyone needs to wait for all the evidence to be presented in court. Once that happens, Laura is confident there is no possible way that Clayton will be able to meet the high evidentiary burden for the claims he is making. If she is correct, this case will end with a judgment in favor of neither side.

To me, that seems like an incredible waste of time and resources, but at least for now, that is where things are headed.


This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Rochelle

    Blood test? Where is this documented?

  2. Janice

    First you say she miscarried in November. Now you say she miscarried in October. Which is it?

  3. Janice

    If she miscarried in November, show the Fetal Death Certificates. Laura should have no problem doing that. Plus, the hCG in that test you shared would have been in the hundreds of thousands.
    If she miscarried in October, Laura lied under oath in the November 2nd hearing, saying she had just seen Dr. Higley and confirmed the pregnancy on October 27th.

Comments are closed.