The dividend history of a company is not a bulletproof way of assessing how the company will pay out in the future but it can be used to give you clues. Remember that ultimately dividends must be paid from earnings and sustainable cashflow, so you must be sure to check out both the earning power and cash generation abilities of the company before investing for the dividends.
As we discussed in our article on dividend aristocrats, the management of companies that have consistently been raising their dividends for years and years are going to have a huge focus on continuing this trend.
Shareholders would be asking some very serious questions if these management teams were to cut (or even freeze) the dividend payment.
Dividend policies are often spelled out by management. They will often talk about their priorities for the free cash generated by the company and may indicate how much of that they will look to pay out and how much they will re-invest in the business.
The way to gain these insights is to read some of the documents released by businesses such as the quarterly filing or the annual report (available in the investor relations sections of the company's website - see below for more on this).
The more of these you read, the more experienced you will become in judging how generous you can expect management to be in the future.
At the end of all this, however, do not forget that the past is not a reliable predictor of the future. It can at best be considered a clue to future performance.