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A man who left his partner nearly 20 years ago is not entitled to half the value of the house they had shared, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The highest court in England and Wales decided Leonard Kernott was instead entitled to 10% of its value.
Patricia Jones was challenging a Court of Appeal ruling which gave Mr Kernott an equal share of the home's value.
The Essex bungalow was bought in joint names but, after separating, Ms Jones solely paid the mortgage for 13 years.
Lawyers said Tuesday's decision could alter the legal landscape for unmarried couples arguing over property after separating.
It is thought there are more than two million co-habiting couples in England and Wales.
During a hearing in May, the Supreme Court heard that ice-cream salesman Mr Kernott, 51, and Ms Jones, 56, broke up in 1993 after sharing the house in Thundersley for eight years.
The couple bought the house in 1985 in joint names and took out a joint mortgage. It was valued at £240,000 in 2008.
When Mr Kernott moved out, Ms Jones continued to pay the mortgage.
Last year the Court of Appeal decided that Mr Kernott was still entitled to half the value of the house because the couple owned equal shares when they separated and neither had done anything to change the situation since.
But Supreme Court judge Lord Kerr said that the split of 90% and 10% originally imposed by a county court judge was "a fair one between the parties".