Elizabeth Edwards has been battling cancer since 2004, and according to the New York Daily News, her condition has reportedly "taken a turn for the worse lately." The News says that Edwards, 60, has started to consider the question of her children's guardianship in the event of her death. Normally, young children who've lost a parent are placed in custody of the surviving parent. But sources say that Elizabeth is determined to keep the children out of estranged husband John Edwards' home -- for fear that Rielle Hunter would end up raising them.
According to the News, Elizabeth Edwards wants her oldest daughter Cate to take care of Emma, 12, and Jack, 10, if she should pass away. Cate is only 28, but she has a steady legal job at a federal court in Virginia, owns her own home and is in a long-term relationship. Still -- even if Cate is a suitable guardian, the children's father has the right to custody, unless he's determined "unfit" by a court of law. Although John has made some bad decisions (like, say, having unprotected sex with his mistress during a Presidential campaign and lying to the nation about his paternity when a baby was born to his mistress), he's traditionally been a fairly upstanding member of society in many other regards -- so it's unlikely that Elizabeth would be able to find a legal loophole to keep the children out of his care.
For what it's worth, Elizabeth's sister, Nancy Anania Sims, denies that Elizabeth's health is deteriorating -- but she doesn't deny that Elizabeth may be looking for custody options outside of John, saying, "There are a lot of family members who are willing and able."
John Edwards, 56, is the father of a 2-year-old daughter with his mistress Hunter, now 46. The couple has announced no plans to marry, although according to the New York Times, Edwards once told Hunter that he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony after his wife died. The Edwardses are legally separated and, per North Carolina law, can divorce in 2011.