Cheryl Cole looks to the future after announcing her separation from Ashley

When Cheryl Cole touched down in London with her wedding ring still noticeably absent, many speculated it meant the end of her marriage to footballer Ashley.

Hours later and it was confirmed – the X Factor beauty had decided to separate from her husband of three-and-half years.

Attention has now turned to the division of the couple's estimated £22 million fortune.

It is being reported that the 26-year-old is unlikely to walk away with half of the Chelsea star's fortune – Ashley is paid £82,000 a week.

According to the Express, any settlement between the couple, who chose not sign a pre-nuptial agreement, will take into account the length of Ashley and Cheryl's marriage, who was worth the most when they wed, and her wealth in her own right – thought to be £10 million.

The fact that her career is on the up, and the things the couple built up together during their marriage, will also be taken into account.

It's said that after leaving a number of messages begging his wife to save their marriage on her phone, Ashley has told Cheryl she will have to battle to get any of his money, and blames their marital troubles on her mother Joan moving into their Surrey mansion, the Mail reports.

Meanwhile, according to the Sun, Cheryl had contemplated a trial separation from Ashley, 29, but was warned by aides that could end up damaging her own career.

In the end, the Girls Aloud singer intentionally chose to use the word "separating" out of respect for Ashley.

"Cheryl is leaving Ashley, there is no doubt about that," a source told the paper. "But she wanted to offer his some hope."

"She is worried about the effect the split will have on him…Friends say she should put herself first. But she does not wish to be cruel or malicious."

The Newcastle-born brunette is now expected to take up Simon Cowell's offer to star in the US version of the X Factor, and bookmakers are already predicting she will move to America.

Before flying back to the UK on Tuesday, Cheryl reportedly told her husband she wanted a divorce and wanted him out of the house before she got home.

Her decision followed a string of infidelity allegations – five women claim to have slept with the sportsman during his marriage.

Cheryl's band mates have said that are supporting her "in private" while Chelsea football club said it continued to offer Ashley - said to be devastated by the split - its full support.