In California, there is another way to assist potential clients in paying attorneys’ fees: the Family Law Attorney’s Real Property Lien,” or FLARPL (pronounced FLARpull).
FLARPL allows a client to pay his/her attorney with the proceeds from the sale of his/her half of the sale of community property; usually, the sale of the family home or other substantial asset.
FOR EXAMPLE, the attorney estimates the cost of the client’s case to be approximately $15,000 (assuming no complications). The family home of the client and his/her spouse has a fair market value of $850,000 with a current mortgage of $250,000; providing $600,000 in equity. Since the house is community property, the client would be entitled to one-half of the equity when the property is sold, or approximately $300,000 (minus real estate sales fees, etc.). The approximately $300,000 would be adequate security in the home for an attorney to secure your promissory note for the $15,000 estimated to represent you. The FLARPL would attach only to the client’s interest in the property, not the entire property or the spouse’s interest.
There are legal processes to go through to use FLARPL, and are performed by the attorney requesting the lien. Basically, the attorney would notify the court and the client’s spouse of the FLARPL agreement. If no objection is made within 20 days of the notice, the client’s case would be handled by the attorney throughout the entire divorce process without further request for payment. At the end of the case, when the house is sold, the attorney is paid from the client’s equity in the home. Once paid, the attorney releases the lien from the property and the lien no longer exists.
Not all attorneys will accept FLARPL agreements to pay for divorce proceedings, but it is obviously another way for a client to ensure legal representation if necessary.