Tina Turner v. Ike Turner | tnorris.jd15 | August 27, 2013

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Tina Turner v. Ike Turner

Original Creator: Joseph William Singer Current Version: tnorris.jd15
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Tina Turner v. Ike Turner

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Tina Turner and Ike Turner met in college but did not develop a romantic relationship until the year after they graduated when both moved to San Francisco. They were married two years later in 1990. Ike Turner came from a wealthy family and his parents insisted that he encourage Tina to sign an antenuptial agreement waiving the benefits of California’s community property law. Ike did not feel strongly about it but spoke to Tina about their concerns. Neither Ike nor Tina anticipated ever getting divorced; they were very much in love. They agreed to sign a contract to mollify his parents because it would make them happy and they did not anticipate ever having to resort to enforcing the contract. The agreement provided that each party would keep separate bank accounts and would own separately the property and income each earned during the marriage and that, on divorce, neither party would have any right in property acquired by the other during the marriage. The contract also contained the following clauses:

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The parties agree that if either of them sues the other for divorce, suit shall be filed in California courts. The parties waive any objections they may have to such a lawsuit based on alleged lack of personal jurisdiction; each party voluntarily consents to have suit brought in California.

This agreement is governed by California law. 

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At the time they signed the contract, Ike was in medical school and Tina was enrolled in classes to get a teacher’s certificate to teach in high school in California. A few months after their marriage, Tina got her certification and was lucky to land a job in Santa Clara, California. The couple had two children over the next seven years. When the second child turned four, Ike was offered a job at the oncology department of a major New York hospital. The couple decided to move to the east coast. They purchased a house in Englewood, New Jersey, from which Ike could commute to work in New York City. Two years later, after a twelve year long marriage, the relationship started to sour. Ike moved out of the house and Tina sued Ike for a divorce based on irreconcilable differences in Family Court in New Jersey. Ike then moved back to California.

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Ike moves in the New Jersey Family Court to have the complaint dismissed on the ground that the parties agreed to have such a lawsuit heard in California and that the choice-of-forum clause is fully enforceable in New Jersey. In the alternative, if the choice-of-forum clause is not enforced, Ike argues that the choice-of-law clause should be enforced and the court should apply California, rather than New Jersey, law to the question of how to distribute property owned by the parties on divorce.

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The trial court holds that the choice-of-forum clause is not enforceable because it is fundamentally unfair and would work a severe hardship on Tina Turner. The court also finds that, under California law, the antenuptial agreement is otherwise enforceable in accordance with its terms. This means that the antenuptial agreement is enforceable without regard to any considerations of whether it reflects a fair distribution of property rights acquired during the marriage. It also means that the agreement is presumed to be voluntary in the absence of clear evidence of fraud (active misrepresentation rather than failure to reveal relevant facts) or duress. New Jersey law, in contrast, reviews the agreement to determine whether it is fair to both parties and considers the agreement not to be sufficiently voluntary to enforce in the absence of evidence that the parties fully disclosed to each other, prior to signing the agreement, the full extent of their assets, something that concededly did not happen in this case.  Under New Jersey's modified version of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, N.J. Stat. §§ 37:2-31 to 37:2-41, courts are obligated to enforce choice-of-law clauses in premarital agreements. N.J. Stat. §37:2-34. However, neither those clauses nor the agreements themselves are enforceable if they are  "unconscionable at the time enforcement [is] sought."  N.J. Stat. §37:2-38. The trial court holds that the choice-of-law clause is enforceable in New Jersey and that California law, rather than New Jersey law governs the validity and enforceability of the contract.

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On appeal, Ike Turner argues that the trial court erred in not enforcing the choice-of-forum clause. Although happy with trial court’s choice-of-law decision, he worries that, if this ruling is overturned on appeal, he will have to pay millions of dollars to Tina as a property settlement. On the other hand, he rightfully concludes that a California court is more likely to apply California law to adjudicate the parties’ property rights and that his interests would be better protected in California courts as long as Tina insists on appealing the choice-of-law determination of the lower court. Tina Turner argues, in contrast, that the trial court correctly refused to enforce the choice-of-forum clause because it would create a severe financial hardship for her, on a high school teacher’s salary, to litigate in California while living in New Jersey. She further argues that New Jersey law should apply to the property division issue, noting that, under California law, Ike would be able to live in luxury with his current salary and his inheritance (which devolved from a trust to his full control several years after they got married), while Tina would be entitled only to minimal child support payments and no support or property distribution, thus forcing her and the children to move out of their spacious home into a small apartment in a different town, forcing her children to leave their school and their friends. In the absence of a premarital contract entered into with the full disclosure required by the New Jersey statute, New Jersey would grant the wife in a long-term marriage of more than ten years (like this one) roughly 50% of the property earned during the marriage. Thus the contract is unenforceable under New Jersey law; under New Jersey’s equitable distribution statute applicable in the absence of an enforceable premarital agreement, Tina would be entitled to a substantial share of the property acquired by the couple during the marriage on the basis of numerous factors, including Tina’s contribution to the family partnership and the lifestyle to which the family became accustomed during the marriage. If New Jersey law applies, she could afford to stay in the family home in Englewood with the two children. The Appellate Division rules that the choice-of-forum clause is enforceable and dismisses the complaint.

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Tina appeals to the Supreme Court of New Jersey which accepts certification on the following two questions:

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1. Is the choice-of-forum clause enforceable under New Jersey law?

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2. If it is not enforceable, is the choice-of-law clause enforceable under New Jersey law?

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π = Tina Turner

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∆ = Ike Turner

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June 02, 2014

Tina Turner v. Ike Turner

Tina Turner v. Ike Turner

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