Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the impact of regulations, reforms and legal environment on dividend policy in a different institutional setting. Particularly, it examines the firm-level cash dividend behaviour of publicly listed firms in Turkey in the post-2003 period, since there were major economic and structural reforms as well as significant regulatory changes of dividend payout rules imposed by the supervisory bodies. Design/methodology/approach: The paper focuses on a recent large panel data set of 264 Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE)-listed firms over a ten-year period 2003-2012. First, it employs a modified specification of Lintner’s (1956) partial adjustment model for analysis regarding target payout ratio and dividend smoothing. Second, it performs a logit model for analysis in identifying the link between financial characteristics and the likelihood of paying dividends. Findings: The results show that ISE firms now follow the same determinants as suggested by Lintner. They, indeed, have long-term payout ratios and adjust their cash dividends by a moderate level of smoothing, and therefore adopt stable dividend policies (although less stable policies compared to their counterparts in the developed US market) as a signalling mechanism over the period 2003-2012. Moreover, the results also report that ownership structure concentration affects the target payout ratio and dividend smoothing in the Turkish market. In addition, the results further show that more profitable, more mature and larger sized ISE firms are more likely to pay cash dividends, whereas ISE firms with higher investment opportunities and more debt are less likely to distribute cash dividends in the post-2003 period. Originality/value: To the best of authors’ knowledge, this paper is the first major research that examines the implications of reforms and regulations on cash dividend payments and dividend smoothing over time in Turkey during its market integration process in the post-2003 period.