England's reputation as being the most female-friendly place in the world for divorce has taken a knock, thanks to a recent High Court decision.

A ruling in the HvH case means that ex-husbands in big ticket divorce cases are no longer expected to provide their former wives with a share of their future earnings.

Andrew Breakwell, a partner in the family and matrimonial team at Birmingham law firm Mills & Reeve, described the ruling as "ground-breaking".

He said: "For the first time in nearly a decade the pendulum has swung in favour of the husband."

In the case, Mrs H, aged 46, was awarded £13.7 million in cash and assets, from a total marital pot of £29.4 million. However, her request for £1.5 million compensation for the loss of her banker husband's future pay and bonuses was rebuffed on the grounds that her future needs were accommodated by a "clean break" sum.

The couple had married in 1982 following a three-year relationship. When Mr H was posted to Tokyo in 1988, Mrs H gave up her teaching job to follow him and care for their four children. In 2004, Mr H formed a new relationship and left the £2.7 million family home.

Aged 44, Mr H's career was judged to be in the ascendancy and his future earning potential considerable.

But because the couple had built up significant assets during their marriage, Mr Justice Charles felt justified in making a one-off award.

He said: "This is not a case in which the wife gave up a career that was likely to provide substantial income or monetary reward. She was a teacher."

The judgment will be a relief to the wealthy spouses of stay-at-home wives, particularly as it comes on the back of two recent House of Lords decisions which had unnerved married high earners.

In the McFarlane case, the breadwinner was ordered to pay his wife £250,000 a year for life after their 16-year-old marriage broke down, whilst in the Miller case, the wife was awarded £5million of her former husband's £20 million fortune after just three years of childless wedlock.

Mr Breakwell said: "HvH is likely to be the high watermark for divorcing stay-at-home wives.

"Although the sums concerned here are high, the principles are likely to apply where there are much smaller marital pots. As long as a husband can prove that the ex's needs are provided for, any future bonus he earns in excess of that is his to keep."

The case has also laid down another principle: that certain assets are calculated from the day the couple separate, rather than from the day they walk into court. This follows the practice of the Scottish courts.

Mr Breakwell said: "This is a welcome and fair way to treat bonuses. Once the partnership of marriage has ended it is often fair that there is a significant disparity in incomes after separation.

"In the meantime, high earners are awaiting the judgement in the Charman appeal. This will give a true indication of where the courts are going with big ticket divorce cases."