It’s that time of year again: While most people are thinking about how they’re going to get the leaves out of the yard, divorced parents are already thinking ahead about how they’re going to juggle the holiday schedule with the kids.

If you’ve forgotten how this works or this is the first year you’ve had to do it, here are some important reminders:

  1. It’s always best to review your parenting plan now.

More than likely, your parenting plan has guidance on it regarding the holidays. Since we’re rolling into Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t far behind, it’s smart to look at your agreement now — before you start making plans.

  1. Remember that the holiday schedule usually trumps normal visitation.

This gets confusing to a lot of parents, but the holiday schedule overrides the regular exchange of custody that would normally happen. If a holiday falls on your weekend with the kids and it’s a holiday that your ex is supposed to have with them, your ex gets custody that weekend. Your parenting plan should indicate whether the alternating weekend “resets” so that neither of you ever have the kids three weekends in a row.

  1. It is possible to negotiate with your ex-spouse for additional time.

If you have something special that you want to do with the kids or there are relatives coming into town for the holidays, it’s smart to ask your ex-spouse about changing the visitation schedule around a little early. Flexibility can help divorced parents work together for the benefit of the kids.

Understanding your custody orders and the holiday visitation schedule is key to knowing what you can (and can’t) do. If a dispute with your ex breaks out over the visitation plan, it’s best to address the issue early.