IN the wake of Paula Deen’s shocking racial scandal, the hits keep coming for the be­leaguered TV cook – pals now fear she’s headed for an ugly $17 million divorce battle with her husband Michael Groover!

Incredibly, the couple has no pre­nuptial agreement, and although Paula has maintained that her tugboat-captain hubby has his own money, pals are saying all bets are off at this point.

“If they do divorce, Paula could have a real fight on her hands,” said a source close to the family.

Michael is said to be furious over being dragged into the mess that exploded when The ENQUIRER exclusively broke the bombshell news that Paula admitted in a court deposition she’d used the N-word.

Paula’s confession not only toppled her multimillion-dollar cu­linary empire but also sent Michael into a rage because she revealed in the deposition that he liked to tell racial jokes, according to the friend. He’s truly fed up with Paula and had it out with her in an ugly showdown. “Now that Paula has soiled his name, too, everyone fears it could be the final breaking point for their marriage,” revealed the source.

“Michael is a quiet Southerner, a fifth-generation native of Savan­nah. He’s a proud man and has had trouble being in the limelight. This scandal has been a nightmare for him. People blast Paula to his face for her racial slurs, and they’re let­ting him have it, too. It’s a case of guilt by association.

“Even his fishing buddies rib him about Paula’s slurs and how they’ve become the talk of the nation.

“Michael is at the end of his rope. His closest friends believe he’s go­ing to file for divorce and get back to being a good ol’ boy – without the publicity.”

The 66-year-old queen of south­ern cooking made her disastrous comments when she was deposed for a lawsuit filed by a former man­ager of a Savannah, Ga., restaurant she co-owns with her brother Earl “Bubba” Hiers. The former manager is suing Deen and her brother for alleged sexual and discrimination ha­rassment.

After The ENQUIRER broke the deposition story, reaction was swift. The Food Network, Smithfield Foods, Walmart, Target and Caesars En­tertainment, which operated Paula Deen-branded restaurants at four ca­sinos, cut ties with the once-beloved cook.

But no one was rattled more by her remarks than 57-year-old Michael.

During the deposition, Paula denied ever using the N-word when telling jokes.

But when asked if other family members told jokes using the N-word, Paula said: “I’m sure they have. My husband is con­stantly telling me jokes.”

Asked if she was offended by those jokes, she replied: “No, because it is my husband.” When Michael learned what she’d said, “he went through the roof,” divulged the insider.

As The ENQUIRER previously reported, the lawsuit had already strained the marriage – even before the N-word scandal erupted. The avalanche of bad publicity since we blew the lid off the whole thing has now pushed it over the edge.

“Michael has just thrown up his hands at this point,” said the source.

The two have had a rocky relationship from the beginning. In her autobiography, “It Ain’t All About the Cookin’,” Paula admits that fights between her and Michael’s daughter Michelle nearly caused a split. And in the past year, rumors swirled around Savan­nah that Paula was getting ready to dump Michael when she dropped 45 pounds and was considering a cosmetic surgery touch-up.

Now, she’s said to be secretly making plans to sell her Savannah mansion, valued at $4.1 million.

Meanwhile, records show that Paula’s property interests are in the names of herself and her sons, Bob­by and Jamie, but not Michael’s.

“Michael appears to be a laid-back Southern guy,” said the source, “but Paula could be faced with a doozy of a divorce battle.”