08/01/2011 06:13 pm ET | Updated Oct 01, 2011

Stay Two Steps Ahead of an Ugly Divorce

The institution of marriage is certainly grabbing the news these days -- with homosexuals getting the right to marry in New York, gay marriages being offered via lotteries, and J.Lo and Marc Anthony splitting up. Marriage isn't like it used to be in the 1960s! It's no longer 'till death do us part', as divorce hits approximately 50 percent of all American marriages. And according to Steve Brodsky of Brodsky law firm in New York, women are the plaintiffs in about 20 percent more cases.

C'est la vie.

A little bit about me. I'm a 20-something year old with a boyfriend I love, and I'm pretty sure if I did get married, he'd be the one. So, what's holding me back from walking down that aisle -- seven letters: DIVORCE. I've seen married people who I thought would last forever, just suddenly fall out of love. And divorce is a likely outcome of almost half all first marriages.

For some as financially independent as J.Lo, who has been divorced three times, splitting assets down the middle is perfectly feasible, but for others the financial hassle and headache of divorce is enough to make you think twice and three times before pulling the trigger. We can't control love, and when one person falls in or out of it, but we ladies can learn to control our portion of our finances in a relationship and throughout divorce proceedings.

Here are some tips to being a financially independent female:

1. Know Your Worth:
Even if you're not going through a divorce, get documentation of all your financial assets -- including credit card bills, wills, trusts, mortgage, bank account information, income tax information, loan records, pension information, life insurance, proof of property and vehicle information, and tuck them away someplace safe that is outside your primary residence.

2. Don't Give Away Your Power:
If you live in a 1960 style relationship, your husband might have sole access to all the finances. If this is the case, use your resources and figure out a way to secure enough money to handle the costs of the lawyers and other professionals you will need if a divorce is looming. What happens in many cases is that females have no choice but to accept a financial settlement, regardless of the fairness, because they don't have the money to continue to pursue divorce proceedings. Brodsky, the principal attorney at Brodsky Law Firm in New York, NY-- a firm that provides low-cost divorce services throughout New York State, explains a case he encountered where the husband made a six-figure salary, lived outside the marital home, and he forced the wife to live on $100 per week, with no car, no freedom, and no way out. Divorce is a battle of the sexes, and it's in your best interest to protect yourself.

3. Get Your own Stuff, Woman:
It's the new millennium; independence is the sexiest fragrance you can wear. And wear it well. Keep in mind, though, that new federal regulations are making it harder than ever for women with little or no income to establish credit on their own. Separate yourself from your man financially if you can, because when you are fully dependent it can be a crushing blow to your finances if he or if you decide to leave. If you and your man are currently sharing a credit card, ask about setting up your own to establish your independence. There are some great credit cards with balance transfer deals to make the switch smoother.

4. Protect thy Credit:
Credit is all we have in this world. I don't care what anyone else tells you. We all have to live, die, and pay off our credit cards-- and with that I summed up the American consumerist culture. But a lot of married couples have completed joint credit card applications, or the wife is an authorized user on the card. The 2011 woman should have at least two credit cards in her name and keep an eye on her credit and her husbands' credit history, expenses and reports, according toRoman Shteyn, CEO of Credit-Land. It's easy to catch him cheating if you see that he spent $1,000 on a Marc Jacobs dress and dinner for two, while you have been sitting at home in an Old Navy hoodie.

5. Plan For the Future As A Single:
Love is a beautiful thing, but you can't count on it. So many women get divorced, and have to come to terms with the idea that the future that they built with their spouse is coming to an end. You can stay a couple steps ahead if you maintain an income that allows you to retire, pay for your kids' education, and travel the world as you like. Company's great, but knowing you can do it yourself is even better. You can never really expect divorce, but it's important to be mentally prepared for the worst. But if you're currently planning to divorce, remember to change your will and IRA and life insurance beneficiaries, and alter any medical directives, power of attorney affidavits.

Divorce is ugly. I say avoid it all costs, but I know that is not the case when a spouse is cheating or when the love just disappears. Marriage shouldn't happen until you're completely sure, and that's why I'm looking forward to being a girlfriend ...perhaps for the rest of my life.

*Attiyya is an author with