It’s hard to believe that summer is over and I’m already following behind school buses on my way to work. Believe it or not, while fall has barely started, and it’s still almost 80 degrees outside, winter and the holidays are just around the corner. If you don’t believe me, just walk into your local CVS and see all the holiday displays!

Fall also means one other thing: now is the time to start thinking about holiday parenting time and making sure that you and your ex are “good” on the schedule. Most divorced or separated parents do not realize how much lead time is necessary to have a dispute decided by a judge in the event a resolution is not reached between the parents or caregivers. That’s why it’s time to start thinking about these issues now rather than waiting until the end of November, right before Thanksgiving.

This is particularly so in the event holiday travel is involved, and air or train tickets have to be purchased. More importantly, who wants to go into the winter holidays with the anxiety of fighting with an ex over what should be a happy and stress free time for the kids?

Chances are, you have a holiday schedule as part of your divorce settlement agreement, or custody agreement. Take it out of the drawer, check to see what it says for this year, and determine whether there are any issues that might have to be addressed.

When there is a dispute over holiday parenting time that cannot be worked out between parents, you need to get your case in front of the judge by mid-December. Practically, this is the latest time you want to have a dispute resolved, and in order to do so, papers have to be filed by the beginning to mid-November. This is because typically, courts can get backed up this time of year, and although the court rules call for a shorter time period, oftentimes cases get adjourned or delayed. Additionally, people need to be mindful that one of the attorneys may have matters in other courts which can cause delays.

Many custody agreements provide some type of provision stating that parties have to attend mediation or engage in some type of dispute resolution prior to even being allowed to file an application to the court. Moreover, all judges want to know that the parents have tried to work problems out between themselves before rushing to the courthouse. This also takes time if you are dependent on a mediator’s schedule.

That’s why it’s so important to look at your calendars and any agreements that you have between yourself in the other party. Make sure that there are no ambiguities. Send a letter or email with your proposed holiday parenting time for the holiday time. Give your ex a reasonable opportunity to respond and attempt to work out a resolution. If you are unable to do so, that’s the time to call you lawyer and talk about whether it is appropriate to make an application to the court.