Legal Aid Hard to Come by For Some in El Paso
EL PASO- It was a tough couple of months for Gabi and son Caleb. 1 year-old Caleb's father tried to get custody of him last year. Mom Gabi sought legal help.
"They said by the end of it, for a custody suit, it was going to be about ten thousand," said Gabi.
A cost too steep for a single mother, caring for a newborn, out of a job, with a hefty mortgage.
Many share in Gabi's struggle. Lawyers are expensive, and those looking for help are often priced out.
Texas Legal Aid gives out free legal help to those who can't afford it. They reject nearly half who apply for help...and not because they want to.
"We see everyday in our reception area people coming in for help, for legal assistance, and many times we aren't able to help them just because the need is so great," says Managing Attorney Alberto Mesta Jr. of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid.
Legal Aid says there's just not enough lawyers willing to work for free. Without attorneys, the organization can't help everyone who asks for it.
"Many times the need for an attorney is essential. One, just to tell you how to navigate the legal process and two, many times people listen to an attorney versus somebody who isn't represented," says Mesta.
Gabi is lucky. Texas Legal Aid helped her keep her son. She hates to think about the alternative.
"If I didn't have an attorney, who knows what position I'd be in and who knows where he'd be," she says, referring to her son.
A happy ending for Gabi, and one that doesn't exist for El Pasoans who can't get the help they need.