Fans accusing TLC's Chilli of coming between Matthew Lawrence and his ex -- 'DWTS' star Cheryl Burke -- are barking up the wrong tree ... even though Cheryl seems to be throwing shade about the new relationship.
A source familiar with the situation tells TMZ ... Matthew's divorce was filed before he started talking to Chilli in any romantic way -- they knew each other, but simply weren't pursuing one another.
Chilli and Matthew did reconnect in March, a month after Cheryl filed for divorce, at a '90s convention ... but sources say they waited a while before jumping into anything serious due to Matthew being fresh out of his marriage.
Chilli was even dating other people up until they made things official over the holidays -- and we're told Matthew and Cheryl weren't living together when the romance began.
In fact, Cheryl herself says she and Matthew were officially single as of September.
As we reported, Chilli and the "Boy Meets World" star spent the holidays -- Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year -- together in Atlanta with her family.
Cheryl took to Instagram soon after our story, posting a short and seemingly sour message -- "That was fast ..."
Based on those 3 words, people online suspected some relationship overlap, but our sources say there was no funny biz ... as Chilli wanted to make sure there was no gray area before going exclusive with Matthew.