Parks denies cheating accusations leveled by her husband, who is serving eight years in prison
Credit: Michael Rozman/Warner Bros

Real Housewives of Atlanta star Phaedra Parks says she had no clue that her estranged husband, Apollo Nida, had been engaging in illegal activities, telling Ellen DeGeneres that she was blindsided up until the moment he contacted her for help after he was in police custody.

“I didn’t have any idea this was going on until he called me and said ‘Hey, I’ve been arrested,’ ” Parks confides on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in an interview airing Wednesday.

While she acknowledged that Nida was on parole from a previous conviction when the couple, who married in 2009, first met, she says she was ready to accept his past.

“Well, to be honest, he had been to prison,” she explains. “But he was a changed person, so the person I married, I thought he had changed.”

Now, the couple are divorcing, and Parks, an attorney, is faced with raising their two boys, Ayden and Dylan, alone as Nida serves an eight-year federal sentence for fraud.

She says she is trying hard, despite nasty allegations from her ex, to remain above the fray for the sake of their children. Nida had previously lashed out when she didn’t attend his sentencing hearing.

“It is extremely hard,” Parks says of moving on. “My heart aches for my two sons. They are the heart and soul of who I am.”

“That’s the best thing we ever did together – we have great kids. I never want to do anything to diminish his character in public,” Parks – whom a source told PEOPLE will be “better off without” Nida – says. “We’ve had some times when he’s done things that weren’t so cool, weren’t so nice.”

Nida has alleged that Parks cheated on him with a man supposedly named “Chocolate,” a detail DeGeneres seized upon even as Parks claims the story was fabricated to discredit her.

“I think it’s totally absurd to think I cheated,” she tells DeGeneres. “They’re saying I had an affair with a man from Africa named Chocolate. Everybody knows that I do love a Snickers bar every once in a while, but it’s definitely not a man from Africa that I’ve ever had an affair with.”

“Do you know a man named Chocolate?” DeGeneres teases.

No, she says, before adding: “I do know Mr. Goodbar, though.”

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