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Thomas Gibson Reveals Why He Kept His Divorce from Wife of 20 Years a Secret

Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty

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Thomas Gibson takes pride in being a family man.

“Being a dad is the greatest experience of my life,” Gibson says in the current issue of PEOPLE of being father to daughter Agatha, 12, and sons Travis, 14, and James, 17.

So Gibson was shocked to hear that people thought he was cheating on his wife, Christine, when a woman claimed to TMZ that she’d sent the actor provocative photos while carrying on an online relationship with him in 2013.

“I’m the child of divorce, and when Christine and I got married [in 1993], it was important to me that I never undermine the marriage,” says Gibson.

For more from Gibson – including the story behind the incident that got him fired off Criminal Minds – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Saturday

Gibson and his wife had actually quietly separated in 2011 and finalized their divorce last Christmas.

“We spent a year and a half in mediation. We kept it private because divorce is hard enough on kids without having to deal with it publicly,” says the actor. “Christine and I switch off staying with our kids at home in San Antonio. We did the best we could and continue to do the best we can as parents.”

Season 12 of Criminal Minds premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on CBS.