Cell Phone Use Among Children and Teens with Separated Parents

“My ex wants to get our daughter a cell phone, but I don’t think she’s ready.”

“My ex constantly calls and texts our son when he is with me, and it is affecting the quality of our time together.”

“My ex won’t give me the password to our children’s phones so I can monitor their online activity.”

“My ex blocked me from the kids’ phones so I can’t call them.”

In the last five years, conflicts between parents over children’s smartphone use have skyrocketed. Over three-quarters of Americans own a smartphone, a number that has risen exponentially since 2011. In December 2016, the Google Play Store surpassed 2.6 million apps, and there are approximately 2.2 million apps in the Apple App Store. Smartphones have become an inevitable fact of life for most of the country, but their popularity has increased so significantly and so recently, that the science of how smartphones affect our lives has not had a chance to catch up.

Smartphone use is even prevalent amount infants, with apps such as YouTube Kids soaring in popularity. A survey done in 2015 found that more than one-third of parents allowed their children to use a smartphone before that child’s first birthday. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, discourages the use of smartphones with infants under two years old. Last year, pediatricians at the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada studied 900 infants between six months and two years old found that infants who spent at least 30 minutes using smartphones had a 49% increased risk of speech delays.

The average age for an American child to receive their first smartphone is 10 years old. Even at this age, however, smartphones may still have negative effects on a child’s psyche. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, collected data from 500,000 children across the United States between 2010 and 2015, and found that children who spent more than three hours per day on a smart phone were 34% more likely to consider or attempt suicide, and that number jumped to 48% for children who spent more than five hours per day on a device. She has not concluded, however, whether smartphone use leads to the depression or if depression leads to increased smartphone use.
What is known, however, is that depression is up among children. The number of children expressing depressive episodes between 2010 and 2016. Suicide rates for teens have also increased, and suicide among teen girls is at a 40-year high, according to the CDC.

Smartphones can be seriously addictive to children, and the number of children and teens enrolling in “technology addiction” treatment has risen sharply in the last decade. Smartphones can also affect sleep patterns and sleep quality, and there are additional concerns about cyberbullying and a child, whether it be by accident or intentional, stumbling upon disturbing sexual or violent images or videos on the internet. There are also apps, such as the “Secret Calculator” app, that can enable children to hide files, photos, and videos from their parents behind an app that appears to simply be a phone’s default calculator app.

Merely not allowing teens to have access to smartphones is not so simple of an answer, however. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, nearly 75% of teens now have access to a smartphone. Data analyzed by Verto Analytics found that teens unlock their devices 95 times per day, on average.

There are, however, some upsides to smartphone use. A study done at the University of Minnesota among teens with noncustodial fathers who lived out-of-state found that smartphone communication between teens and a nonresident parent can improve such relationships.

There is still a great deal of research that needs to be done on the effect of smartphones on the brains of children and teens, but smartphone use among these groups is here to stay. Psychologists recommend that parents use consistent rules about when smartphone use is an is not allowed, that parents consider not allowing smartphone use overnight, and, particularly for younger children, that parents monitor their children’s online activities and keep track of their passwords
Parents should also consider having a conversation with their children, no matter how uncomfortable, to explain that information, photos, and videos shared or posted online could very likely end up being viewed by those the child did not intend to view the information and that children should not say or share anything they would not want a parent to see. Experts warn, however, that parents should make sure to reassure their children that they will not be punished for letting a parent know about cyberbullying or other inappropriate communication directed at that child.

How does a parent reduce conflict with an ex-partner regarding cell phone use? First, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, it is important to give a child some level of privacy to speak to the other parent. Respecting and being consistent with the rules related to the smartphone developed by another parent can also help to reduce conflict, as can communicating with the other parent to develop sensible rules to be used in both households.

A parent should also resist the temptation to excessively call or text a child while the child is with the other parent (in the absence of an emergency) and to respect the other parent’s time with the child. Many parents avoid conflict by agreeing upon a window of time in which the child can call or text with the other parent to check in or say good night.

Though this subject matter is fairly new, an experienced family law attorney can help a parent find options to reduce conflict with a co-parent surrounding smartphone issues, and to negotiate reasonable rules for cell phone use with which both parents can agree.

Congratulations to Joe Riccio

vegas west attorneys is pleased to announce that Joe Riccio had an article published in the February 2018 issue of Communique, the Official Publication of the Clark County Bar Association. Joe’s article addresses changes to Eighth Judicial District Court Rules that some lawyers have overlooked.

Joe practices primarily in the areas of family law, personal injury and criminal law. Joe recently was awarded an AV rating by Martindale Hubbell and became a partner of vegas west attorneys.


1. HIRE AN ATTORNEY IMMEDIATELY. Persons injured in an accident negligently or intentionally caused by another may bring a claim for their injuries. But, too often, the injured person tries to manage the claim alone and quickly gets lost in the process or, worse, gets taken advantage of. It is extremely important that you do the right things after an accident otherwise you might impair the value of your claim. Keep in mind that not all lawyers have experience in all areas of the law. In most cases, you are best served with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of personal injury law. At vegas west attorneys we have lawyers experienced in the personal injury arena who can help you to maximize your recovery.

2. DO NOT DISCUSS YOUR CLAIM WITH ANYONE BUT YOUR ATTORNEY. If anyone calls you regarding your claim, immediately advise them that you are represented by counsel and provide them with your attorney’s contact information. Do not discuss any part of the claim with anyone unless your attorney directs you to do so. Keep in mind that insurance companies do not represent your interests. Anything you say can be, and most likely will be, held against you.


3. DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING. Do not sign any documents and/or checks sent to you regarding your accident without first consulting your attorney. By the same token, make sure to forward to your attorney any correspondence you receive relating to your claim.


4. KEEP A RECORD. The expenses you incur because of the accident are part of your overall claim for damages. As such, keep a record of all expenses including bills from your health care providers, receipts for drugs and prescriptions, wage loss information and any other costs related to your case. When you have concluded your medical treatment, make sure to communicate all your expenses to your attorney for inclusion in your claim.


5. TRACK YOUR LOST WAGES. The wages you lose because of the accident are also part of your claim for damages. Be sure to obtain copies of written work releases and/or restriction notices from your doctor and updated versions when applicable. Also keep copies of all paycheck stubs, tax returns or other income documentation from before the accident through the date you return to work full time.


6. KEEP YOUR ATTORNEY UP TO DATE: Accurate and up to date information is essential for effective representation in any legal matter. Therefore, inform your attorney of any of the following:

1. A change in your address or telephone number;
2. A change in your place of employment;
3. The date a physician releases you from care;
4. The date you return to work full time;
5. Names of all treating physicians, hospitals and facilities you have treated with; and
6. Any other change in circumstances that might be relevant to your claim no matter how unimportant it may seem at the time.


7. FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S INSTRUCTIONS. Following your doctor’s instructions is good advice always, but, during personal injury litigation, it is essential. If you fail to follow your doctor’s instructions, the defendant’s insurance company will most definitely use it against you. It goes without saying that you should also keep your doctor advised of all developments in your medical condition to ensure comprehensive treatment and to maximize your chances of a full recovery.


We at vegas west attorneys are often asked by potential clients if they should take pictures of the scene after a car accident, or even the scene of a slip and fall, or other accident. The quick answer is “yes.” And videos too. And, you can’t take too many. But, keep in mind that you don’t want to jeopardize your safety, the safety of others, in your efforts. It is also important to use good judgment under the circumstances.
With those caveats, below is our guide regarding to taking pictures or video:
– Try to take the pictures and videos before the cars are moved, if it is safe to do so;

– Take pictures from multiple angels, up close and from afar. The pictures from afar should include background buildings and other fixed items that will allow a person to recreate the accident location on a map that might eventually be used in litigation or claims resolution. The close pictures could better represent the violent nature of a collision. Videos can be useful to document something that a photograph will not, such as a piece of your car that is loose when it shouldn’t be.

– Don’t forget to take pictures of the other person’s car also, particularly if it sustained a lot of damage, and more particularly if it sustained more damage than your vehicle;

– Take pictures of the other person’s license plate (one is enough) and driver’s license and insurance card;

– If ANYONE has a visible injury, then try and get those pictures and video if someone is limping. Blood on the scene, or someone being removed in a stretcher is powerful evidence for a jury. Person’s crying or cringing are too.

– A slip and fall, or trip and fall, often rests on whether the impediment was “open and obvious.” so well framed pictures and video can prove your case. Don’t forget to shoot in the direction you were walking and take them from your eye level and if the sun was in your eyes then document your evidence before the sun moves too much. A blinding setting-sun can move to a not-so-blinding level in a matter of minutes.

– Pictures of bruises and healing wounds can be taken over a course of weeks, even months if it takes that long to heal. Sometimes a bruise looks worse a week later than on the day of the injury. As a result, bruises should be photographed daily.
Ultimately, pictures and videos can be helpful for your case. To ensure that the pictures can be used in legal proceedings, document when the pictures were taken. If the pictures were taken by someone other than yourself, then it might be necessary for that person to authenticate the pictures and lay the foundation (dates and sometimes the time of day also).
If you are in an accident, and have any questions about the issues of the accident, even about taking pictures and videos, you should call vegas west attorneys for a consultation and evaluation of your case.


1. Create a Routine

Many people underestimate the power of a productive routine. If you’re going through a divorce, you may find you have a lot more free time than you’re typically used to. Use this free time to become better! Set your alarm 30 minutes early and go for a brisk walk outside. Go see any movie you want on Wednesday nights. Anything that makes you happy and gives your life some structure.

2. Start Eating Healthy

Treat your body like it a machine. You wouldn’t put cheap gas in a Ferrari, would you? So why fill your body with junk food? You only get one body in this life, and you can’t trade it in if you mess it up. It’s time to start treating your body like you would treat an expensive luxury item. Be responsible and take care of it! You will be grateful later.

3. Join a Gym and Start to Work Out

This piggy-backs off of #2 above. Treat your body well! Not only does exercise release endorphins, it can do wonders for your physique. Now that you will be back on the market, even if you don’t want to be there, it’s time to start caring about your appearance again. Hopefully, this becomes a lifelong habit and you continue to take care of yourself during your next relationship. In addition to the outside benefits of exercise, you will also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues that can come with being sedentary or overweight.

4. Suspend Social Media

There is no doubt that FOMO (fear of missing out) can strain a marriage, but the damage it can do during a divorce may be even worse. If you find yourself immersed in social media, lost on someone’s page you don’t even know, yearning to be where they are and living the life they are living, then you need to stop. Similarly, if you find yourself stalking your soon-to-be-ex and his/her friends, you need to stop. There is nothing worse for your recovery from a divorce than worrying about what your soon-to-be-ex is doing. You wouldn’t rub salt into an open wound, would you? It’s time to start moving on with your life and making sure your soon-to-be-ex is just a memory.

5. Reunite with Friends and Family

Couples tend to let their respective relationships with friends and family go to the wayside once they marry. This is a common occurrence that most people don’t realize can actually do damage to their marriage. Nevertheless, there is something very therapeutic about reuniting with your friends and family during a divorce. You may be surprised where you find the most support during one of the most difficult times in your life. If you’re worried because you haven’t talked to someone in years, take the risk and reach out to that person, you might be surprised at their willingness to support you.

Annual State Bar of Nevada Advanced Family Law Program December 7, 2017


1. There has been a change in the times of several speakers due to schedule conflicts, so please note all programs are subject to change.

2. Judge Tao is unable to appear due to his schedule, but Justice Gibbons will be replacing him. Justice Gibbons, Justice Pickering and Court of Appeals Judge Michael Gibbons are all scheduled to appear for the appellate program.

3. There are only 20 spots remaining and after that you will be put on a waiting list. If you want to attend, please sign up ASAP.

Injured in an Automobile Accident? What Should you do Immediately After?

Unfortunately, accidents happen. They come in all shapes and sizes. But, do you know what to do if you are injured by someone else in an auto accident? Were you the driver? Were you a passenger? Were you commuting in a Lyft or Uber rideshare? Believe it or not, many people do not know what to do immediately after an auto accident because they have just endured a traumatic event to no fault of their own.

There was a time not long ago when the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, would not respond to specific auto accidents. That law, however, was changed and Metro is again responding to all accidents.

If you are involved in an auto accident, you should first immediately call 911, especially if you are injured. Accept medical attention if you injured. Make a police report as soon as possible. The police report is used to gather information about the accident itself, it may contain witness statements, pictures, the police officer’s account of what he/she believed happened leading up to accident. Second, police reports are not always accurate, so it is important that after you contact Metro, or your local police department, you contact an attorney.

Time is critical right after an accident. It is critical to your health should you be seriously injured; and, it is also critical to the value of your case. Going to the emergency room and/or a quick service medical facility is helpful, but it is not the end of treatment. Actually, it is just the beginning. A victim of an automobile accident must seek the proper medical care, whether that be through chiropractic work, pain management, surgery, etc. Your attorney should provide you with a list of medical providers to choose from.

Third, you must maintain the treatment plan. Failure to follow the treatment plan could lead to massive loss of value in a personal injury case. If you cannot get a ride to treatment, find one. If you are forced to miss a treatment day in a given week, make up the treatment in that same week.

Lastly, you must maintain contact with your attorney throughout treatment. Ensure that all documents are being sent from the provider to your counsel, verify that the treatment has a course (i.e. end goal and/or date), and always double check that major medical procedures are approved by your attorney before they are performed.

“Why can’t the Judge just talk to my child?” Child Interviews in Divorce and Custody Litigation

“My child wants to live with me. Why can’t they come to court? Why can’t the judge just ask my child what they want?” It can be frustrating for parents whose children express a wish to be involved in litigation. One preliminary and extremely important thing for those parents to remember is that there is a specific rule on involving children in court proceedings, and that is Eighth Judicial District Court Rule 5.301, which states as follows:

All lawyers and litigants possessing knowledge of matters being heard by the family division are prohibited from:

(a) Discussing issues, proceedings, pleadings, or papers on file with the court with any minor child;

(b) Allowing any minor child to review any such proceedings, pleadings, or papers or the record of the proceedings before the court, whether in the form of transcripts, audio or video recordings, or otherwise;

(c) Leaving such materials in a place where it is likely or foreseeable that any minor child will access those materials; or

(d) Knowingly permitting any other person to do any of the things enumerated in this rule, without the written consent of the parties or the permission of the court.

Family court judges take this rule seriously, and litigants should as well. A parent can face serious consequences for violations of EDCR 5.301, even if their child is older, intellectually advanced, or curious about the court proceedings.

A child’s preference as to their living situation, however, is not irrelevant. Chapter 125C of the Nevada Revised Statutes governs child custody, and section 125C.0035(4) lists what are commonly referred to as the “best interest factors.” Litigants in matters involving child custody will likely hear reference to the “best interest factors” several times throughout the course of their case, from both the judge and (if applicable) their attorney. The factors are important, as they are the issues judges consider and weigh when making a custody or custodial timeshare decision.

There is a total of twelve “best interest factors” (though the list is not exhaustive and the judge is allowed to consider other issues as well), one of which is “[t]he wishes of the child if the child is of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent preference as to his or her physical custody.”

First of all, what is the “sufficient age and capacity” for a child to “form an intelligent preference” as to custody? There is no easy answer to that question. It is up to the discretion of the judge whether to take a child’s wishes into consideration. There is a common misconception that once a child hits the age of 12 or 13, that child can “decide” where they want to live. This is untrue. If the judge decides the child is old enough and mature enough to express a preference, it is but one of many factors considered in the custody decision. Generally, judges begin to consider a child’s wishes around this age, but they are under no obligation to do so and it will vary between judges and cases based upon the unique circumstances of that case.

Let’s say the judge has agreed that your child is of sufficient age and capacity to express a custody preference – how can that preference be expressed to the judge? There is a fairly new procedure that must be followed, and is contained in Nevada Rule of Civil Procedure 16.215. Subsection (a) outlines the general guidelines:
When determining the scope of a child’s participation in custody proceedings, the court should find a balance between protecting the child, the statutory duty to consider the wishes of the child, and the probative value of the child’s input while ensuring to all parties their due process rights to challenge evidence relied upon by the court in making custody decisions.

Subsection (c) lays out the procedure. For a child interview, a party must disclose that they plan to have the child testify or be interviewed by a certain date and file certain associated pleadings.

If a parent does not want their child to have to testify under oath in a formal court hearing setting (which is true for most parents), they can ask that the testimony be taken by “alternative method.” NRCP 16.215(d)(1) states that an alternative method can take the form of the judge interviewing the child without the parents present with or without the parents’ attorneys in the courtroom, or interviewing the child in front of a camera that is live-streaming the video to the parents and/or attorneys. The judge can also elect to have the child interviewed by a “third-party outsource provider,” such as a therapist or an employee of the Family Mediation Center who are trained to do such interviews.

Along with the basics of how the child will express their preference, NRCP 16.215 requires the judge to consider several other questions as to whether the interview is the best thing for the child. The judge also must keep in mind that, regardless of the method used, both parents’ due process rights must be maintained. This means both parents, at a minimum, must have the opportunity to give the interviewer potential questions or subject areas for the interviewer to utilize during the interview. Child interviews should also be recorded. The parties can deviate from the requirements of NRCP 16.215 if they both agree to do so.

It can seem like common sense to do a child interview to determine a child’s custodial preference, but parents should demonstrate empathy towards their child and realize that children sometimes see an interview as being expected to “choose” one parent over another, which can cause them a great deal of stress.

As one can see, issues such as child interviews not only require a knowledge of the court system, but involve two different sets of rules and the Nevada Revised Statutes. Advice on such complicated matters should be obtained by a licensed and experienced attorney, who can advise litigants as to what they can expect based on their child’s age, their judge, and the procedural history of their case.

Types of Listing Contracts for Property Sales

There are three main types of listing contracts typically used for the sale of a piece of real property, such as a home, condominium, vacant land, etc. Ensuring that you enter into the right type of listing contract with your real estate agent is extremely important because it will determine when and how much you must pay the real estate agent commission for selling your home. The three types are as follows:

Exclusive Right to Sell Listing Contract: Under an Exclusive Right to Sell Listing Contract, the seller would owe the real estate agent who lists the home commission if the seller receives an offer to buy the home in the amount of the list price, or when the seller accepts an offer that is for less than the full list price but all other contingencies are met. It would not matter if another real estate agent generated the offer or even if the offer wasn’t generated by anyone at all, because the seller entered into an Exclusive Right to Sell Listing Contract, which gave the listing agent the exclusive right to sell the home and receive the commission.

Exclusive Agency Listing Contract: The Exclusive Agency Listing Contract is similar to the Exclusive Right to Sell Listing contract in that the seller would owe the real estate agent who lists the home commission if the seller receives an offer to purchase the home in the amount of the list price, or when the seller accepts an offer for less than the full list price but all other contingencies are met. The difference with the Exclusive Agency Listing contract is that the seller would not owe commission to the listing real estate agent if the offer was generated by the seller’s own efforts. This type of listing contract allows the seller to market her own home and avoid paying a commission if she generates the offer.

Open Listing Contract: Open Listing contracts are frequently used by people who want to sell their home “by owner” but will work with a real estate agent who has a buyer for the property. If the real estate agent shows the property to a potential buyer and that potential buyer ends up purchasing the property, then the seller would owe that real estate agent a commission. The benefit to this contract is that it is non-exclusive so the seller could enter into an Open Listing Contract with multiple real estate agents, which could increase the chances of finding a buyer.

Most real estate companies have pre-set listing contracts they prefer to use, so if you’re selling your home, make sure you review the contract thoroughly to ensure you understand your duties and rights under the contract. If you have any questions or concerns, you should contact an attorney to explain the provisions and possible negotiate the terms on your behalf.

Vegas West