The World Bank and Divorce: Important Things a World Bank Spouse Should Know

By | Published On: April 1, 2015

If you are a foreign national and married to a World Bank employee, the thought of getting divorced in an unfamiliar country and culture may feel overwhelming. You likely are feeling isolated and disempowered as you undergo the breakup of your marriage far away from home, family and friends. Perhaps you are not working in the U.S. and are fully dependent on your spouse for support. Your immigration status in the U.S. may also be contingent on your spouse’s World Bank job. You may know very little about your spouse’s income and retirement benefits, and now that a divorce is looming on the horizon, they may be unwilling to share any financial information with you and, in fact, may threaten to cut off all support. What do you do?

First, you need to know that as an international organization, the World Bank is not subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts. However its employees do not enjoy these broad immunities and are subject to U.S. jurisdiction in their personal matters, including divorce, custody, alimony and property division. Accordingly, provided you meet the residency requirements of the U.S. jurisdiction where you live, your divorce will be subject to the laws of that jurisdiction. Consistent with its particular rules and procedures, the World Bank will honor child and spousal support orders entered by U.S. courts as part of your divorce. The World Bank will also garnish an employee’s wages if an employee fails to pay court-ordered child or spousal support.

Second, given the unique and complex set of laws governing the World Bank as an international organization on U.S. soil, it’s crucial you retain an experienced family law attorney who is knowledgeable about the unique challenges facing divorcing spouses of World Bank employees, including how to meet residency requirements, how to obtain orders from a U.S. court that will be honored by the World Bank, and how to advocate on your behalf.

Third, you may feel powerless in the face of the bureaucracy and the aura of secrecy surrounding the World Bank. There is no need to be intimidated, however, and it is important for you to know that you have rights. For example, as the spouse of a World Bank employee, you and/or your attorney are entitled to obtain directly from the World Bank information relating to your spouse’s salary and benefits with the World Bank. U.S. laws are sympathetic to the situation of an economically dependent spouse who has taken care of the home, been primarily responsible for raising the children, and otherwise supported the career of their spouse, including relocating to another country to facilitate career opportunities.

With competent counsel at your side, you’ll be able to gather the appropriate essential information and develop your case to get a good outcome for yourself and your children.

Marina Barannik, a family law attorney and founding partner at Tucker, has extensive experience working with international clients, including those affiliated with the World Bank Group and other international organizations. The daughter of a foreign diplomat, Marina understands the challenging cross-cultural issues facing international families living in the Washington Metropolitan area. Contact her at or schedule a consultation here.

Learn more about the Tucker Family Law Team