A court in Brazil has ruled that a married American man must share part of his wealth with a Brazilian man with whom he had a four year relationship.

The Court of Justice in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, a state that legalised civil unions in 2004, recognised that the US citizen and the Brazilian man had a ‘stable union.’

The couple, whose identities have been kept secret, had frequent meetings in Brazil, the US and other countries, the court was told.

In addition to this the Brazilian showed the court that he had supported three members of the American man’s family, reports EFE News.

The American, who lives with his wife in Miami, is said to have over $450 million (£225 million) in assets.

He has been ordered by The Court of Justice to split with his former partner at least one farm he owns in Rio Grande do Sul and two apartments and a house in Porto Alegre, the state capital.

The ruling may set a precedent as it is the first time that assets have been split between a gay couple who did not live under the same roof.

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reports that the American has already presented an appeal to a superior court, alleging that the relationship, though initially sexual, was purely business.

Rio Grande do Sul is the only Brazilian state where civil partnerships are legally recognised.

Same-sex couples in committed relationships can register at any notary public office.

Couples who register have the right to jointly own property, establish custody of children, and claim the right to pensions and property when one partner dies.

A court decision has been pending since 2005 on legalising gay marriage nationwide.