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In the Wake of Elizabeth Edwards' Passing, Who Will Raise Her Kids?

Elizabeth Edwards death, Elizabeth Edwards kids

Elizabeth Edwards with her children Jack and Emma on the campaign trail in 2007.

There are some who would suggest, now that Elizabeth Edwards has lost her battle with breast cancer, that the public forget the way her estranged husband, former presidential candidate John Edwards, behaved during their marriage.  Personally, I doubt Elizabeth Edwards is among them.  After all, she wrote a best-selling book about her husband’s affair in which she stated that she “felt thoroughly and publicly humiliated,” according to The New York Daily News, the same paper that speculated back in May that Edwards was grooming her eldest daughter, Cate, 28, to raise her 12-year-old sister Emma and 10-year-old brother, Jack.

TIME magazine suggests that, “Although the Edwardses were living apart, John Edwards had moved back into their sprawling Chapel Hill, N.C., home as his wife grew sicker.  The assumption is that he will raise the children.”  They quote Grace Christ, a Columbia University professor and author, as saying, “Having John there is critical for the kids.  He has to be there and help them through this.   This is a time for the family to come together, to forgive if they can and apologize if they can, to put aside the anger and the resentment for the sake of everyone.”

Yes, but now that their mother is gone, is John Edwards ready, willing and able to raise his kids, 24/7?

In an email Elizabeth Edwards sent to ABC News after the Daily News custody story broke, she said upon the event of her death, “The children would go to John and then, if he died, to Cate, that is what we always said in our wills.”  ABC reports that “In most cases, custody would automatically go to the father in the event that a divorced woman who had custody of her children died.”

Due to the nature of his career, Edwards has spent lots of time away from the young children he had with Elizabeth.  Additionally, while he has indicated interest in getting to know his almost 3-year-old daughter, Frances Quinn, whose mother is mistress Rielle Hunter, he famously denied fathering her at first.  Not exactly Father of the Year.

ABC notes that John Edwards does provide child support for Quinn, as she is known.  Her mother appeared on Oprah and in the pages of GQ magazine in April of this year and admitted to receiving financial support from John Edwards in amounts above and beyond what is meant for Quinn, but she did not discuss the current state of their affair.  There has been nothing published about the relationship since then, but the former Senator remains in the spotlight as a now year-long investigation continues into corrupt campaign finance contributions that were allegedly made and then funnelled to Hunter as hush money.

In her obituary, CNN quoted Elizabeth Edwards as saying in reference to her children, “I have to prepare for the possibility if I die before they are grown to make them able to function without an involved, engaged and admiring parent.”  That tells me that while Elizabeth may have been resigned to the idea that John would end up raising her small children, she was uncomfortable with the fact that he may be doing so at arm’s length.  It will certainly be interesting to see how all of this plays out over the next few days.  I don’t dispute that the Edwards children need their father during this difficult time and in the years to come; I only wish he were a better man.

Photo by John Edwards 2008 via Flickr

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