Former Bachelor Clayton Echard on 'Really Fighting' for Himself After Winning Paternity Suit — and What's Next (Exclusive)

"There were plenty of times where I felt like I just wanted to give up and not fight because it just was taking up so much of my energy to do so," Echard tells PEOPLE of the paternity suit

ABC/Pamela Littky Clayton Echard
ABC/Pamela Littky Clayton Echard

Clayton Echard is reflecting on the lessons he learned from winning the paternity suit filed against him.

The Bachelor alum, 31, tells PEOPLE that he now realizes the importance of leaning “into your support system whenever you're faced with adversity” and standing “strong for the truth.”

Nine months ago, Echard found himself in the center of a controversy when an unidentified woman — who has since been named as Laura Owens in court filings — claimed he had fathered her unborn twins during a one-night stand.

“There were plenty of times where I felt like I just wanted to give up and not fight because it just was taking up so much of my energy to do so,” he says of the legal proceedings that followed. “But I just learned that sticking to it and really fighting for yourself. I mean, no one will fight for you like you will.”

John Medland/ABC Clayton Echard
John Medland/ABC Clayton Echard

Related: Former Bachelor Clayton Echard Speaks Out After Winning Paternity Case: 'Accountability Needed to Be Had' (Exclusive)

He continued: “So I really learned about just the power of standing for what you believe in and really being your own biggest advocate.”

One week ago, Arizona Judge Julia Ann Mata noted Owens “knowingly presented a false claim, knowingly violated a court order compelling disclosure or discovery,” according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

Mata found that “[Owens] acted unreasonably when she initiated litigation without basis or merit. Without an authentic ultrasound, sonogram, physical examination, and in conjunction with a belief she passed tissue in July 2023, the Court finds the underlying Petition premature at best. At worst, however, fraudulent and made to incite communication, a relationship, or both, with [Echard].”

Related: 'The Bachelor' Alum Clayton Echard Declares the 'Truth Will Always Set You Free' amid Paternity Scandal

The former reality star was consequently granted in Petition for Non-Paternity and his attorneys fees. The court also “determined that Laura Owens has a pattern of similar, if not identical behavior, and court involvement” and referred the matter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for further review of her actions.

Owens’ lawyer David Gingras told PEOPLE that his client plans to appeal the verdict.

Echard is now looking towards the future following the ruling. In addition to his work in real estate and solar panel sales, he has a men’s mental health podcast “in the works.”

“I love speaking about mental health,” he says. “I love being able to help other people feel more confident in speaking up about their own mental health struggles. And so really looking forward to starting that up here soon and being able to give a voice to the voiceless and also just empower people through shared stories. So I'm really excited to be able to go down that avenue.”

Pamela Littky/ABC Clayton Echard
Pamela Littky/ABC Clayton Echard

Related: Clayton Echard and Rachel Recchia Poke Fun at 'Reality TV Trauma' as They Reunite Beside 'Bachelor' Pals

Echard’s comments come nine months after the former Bachelor revealed the results of his paternity test and denied he was the father in response to the woman filing a lawsuit against him in September, claiming he had fathered her unborn twins after a one-night stand.

In the lawsuit, the woman alleged that Echard got her pregnant after the two met that night. After filing the suit, the woman requested Echard take a test to find out the paternity of her unborn twins before she gave birth in February. The 33-year-old woman, who chose to remain anonymous at the time, claimed that the former Bachelor wasn’t complying with her requests for a test.

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At the time, Echard denied claims he had “sexual intercourse” with the woman in an interview with The Sun. The woman reportedly told the outlet that he refused to take a test and that she had to pay a $725 deposit for it, but Echard called her accusations “baseless” and “lacking in merit.”

In court documents obtained by PEOPLE, the woman stated that Echard refused to believe she was pregnant when she originally informed him back in June.

“I wanted you to come over to confirm what I was doubting. And you did confirm that. So, I don’t see you as a liar anymore,” he allegedly texted the woman.

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