AMERICAN FORK, Utah – A group of concerned citizens gathered for a rally outside the American Fork Courthouse Thursday while a hearing went on inside regarding the custody status of two teens.
The Wolferts sisters were found earlier this year with their mother in Utah, almost a year and a half after they were reported missing by their father in Kansas.
Thursday’s event was described as an emergency hearing over the phone involving the judge in the case, the Wolferts' father in Kansas, their mother in Utah, and the Utah Guardian ad litem.
The focus was on the Wolferts sisters, who've been at the center of a protracted custody battle that's gone on for several years and spans at least two states. Sydney, 16, and Danielle, 15, Wolferts remain in the middle of a legal tug of war between their parents: Michelle, who resides in Utah, and their dad, Brian, who lives in Kansas.
After their parents’ divorce, the girls spent much of their young lives with mom. But a few years ago, Brian was awarded custody and they moved to Kansas.
It was not a smooth transition, according to the oldest sister, Brittany Dangerfield.
“We’re not pawns, and that we can't just be tossed around by the system based off of what one parent or the other parent says” Dangerfield said.
The situation changed dramatically in July, 2014 during their visit to Utah to see mom, which is when the sisters disappeared.
Then, in January of this year, police found them in Pleasant Grove with Michelle. A judge then ordered that they be returned to dad in Kansas.
But, all along the girls have claimed they didn't want to be with him, saying he was emotionally abusive.
"There was a lot of verbal abuse, a lot of putting us down on a daily basis, severe control of every little thing we did and said: We weren't allowed to express emotions,” Dangerfield claims.
Thursday’s hearing was apparently the result of new allegations that dad is keeping the girls in isolation and not following some of the guidelines set down by the court.
Dangerfield said she and others, including these protesters, want what is best for the girls. They say that means bringing them back to Utah to be with their mom.
"We want a relationship with our father, but we want it on our terms and for it to be free of abuse,” she said. “The happiest moments we had with my dad was when we were on supervised visitation with him back when my mom still had custody."
FOX 13 News reached out to Brian Wolferts for comment Thursday, but so far has not received a response. In the past he's told FOX 13 News the allegations of abuse are false, that the girls belong to him based on the court order, and that he provides a stable and loving home for them.
It is not yet clear what the outcome of Thursday's hearing entailed.