A judge in South Carolina has made a major ruling in the ongoing battle over James Brown's estate after declaring the late legend's partner, Tommie Rae Hynie, was his legal spouse at the time of his 2006 death.

Hynie was left fighting for a share of the singer's estate for her and the couple's son, James, Jr., as Brown's last will was signed in 2000, a year before the pair wed.

The legality of their relationship subsequently came under scrutiny after it emerged Hynie had been married to another man at the time they exchanged vows.

Her attorneys argued her previous union, to a man called Javed Ahmed, was void because he had committed bigamy, which is outlawed in South Carolina, and Judge Doyet Early Iii ruled in her favour on 13 January (15).

The decision, which was made public on Monday (26Jan15), paves the way for Hynie, also known as Tommie Rae Brown, to claim a portion of her late husband's multi-million dollar estate, which has been at the centre of a longrunning legal battle between her and the singer's other children.

Meanwhile, Judge Early Iii also ruled Hynie's boy - now 13 - was Brown's biological child after a second round of court-ordered Dna tests proved they were father and son. The results confirm the findings of a previous genetics test in 2008, which was challenged by opposing estate representatives.

Brown died on Christmas Day, 2006.