The Facts Of Life star, one of the 18 castaways competing on Survivor: Philippines, has confirmed reports she has split from Steve Cauble.
Whelchel tells People.com she decided to take part in the reality TV contest, which premiered in the U.S. on Wednesday (19Sep12), to take her mind off her broken marriage.
She tells People.com, "The divorce was final on March 1, and (I) went out to be on Survivor on March 10. Going out to Survivor was helpful for me, to divert my attention and not just dwell on the loss... I just never thought it would happen to me. It was painful to realise that it wasn't going to work out."
Whelchel, who played wealthy Blair Warner on The Facts Of Life, insists she will always be close with Cauble - the former couple even watched the Survivor premiere with their three grown kids.
She adds, "We will always be friends. And we will always be family, too."