It was an unprecedented achievement not seen at the time or ever since. J. Michael Kelly, at the age of 18, became the youngest appointed City Marshall in the nation, sparking a career in law that would evolve from grassroots positions like City Marshall into one of the most respected divorce attorneys in the entire state of California. Mr. Kelly has continuously set his standards of achievement at the highest possible levels, so much so that most recently Best Lawyers magazine (the oldest and most respected peer guide in law worldwide) called him one of the “Best California Attorneys.” In a career spanning over a half a century studying, teaching, and actively engaging in family law practice, J. Michael Kelly has accumulated an exceptional amount of noted accomplishments over the years, including various appointments on active legal committees, lectureships at prestigious organizations and institutions, and of course the various high-caliber court cases that have made him such a success news outlets like CNN, ABC, NBC, and FOX News turn to him for the most calculated legal analysis available.
Mr. Kelly was still an active City Marshall (a position he held for roughly six years) when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, from which he received an honorable discharge in 1964. At the same time, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ithaca College, which would serve as a precursor to an enduring lifetime of education in law. He left the state of New York and attended the University of Miami Law School, where he received the dean’s merit certificate, as well as a prestigious LEA grant that allowed him 340 hours of exclusive time with the Miami Dade Metropolitan Police department – an experience upon which he based his thesis.
He was admitted into the state of Florida Bar in 1968, and later the state of California Bar in 1969. Mr. Kelly’s trajectory among law circles in California was quick and concrete. In 1970 he became the first California attorney to try a Grandparents’ rights suit, an accomplishment that preceded a host of other pioneering moves in legal practice, including in 1984, when he became the first California attorney appointed by children to represent them as individuals, as well as acting as counsel in the largest child abduction award ever litigated in the United States at the time. In addition to working on a number of famous spotlighted divorce custody cases over the years, Mr. Kelly has spent decades seated in prominent roles on several legal advisory committees, as well as lecturing at prestigious educational institutions, among them UCLA, the University of Michigan, USC, and the University of Notre Dame.
J. Michael Kelly has taken over 40 years of experience working within the legal arena in order to ensure that the system is abided by and followed as prescribed by law. Currently, he is the managing partner of Kelly Fernandez & Karney, one of the largest divorce law firms in the entire state of California.