Ben Geller was the Ross' first child but the character disappeared in the later seasons of Friends - so what happened to him? The role was played by a number of child actors but Cole Sprouse (Riverdale) was most memorably linked to the character. Fans of the series and cast members, including Sprouse, have provided insight into Ben's possible whereabouts. In Friends season 1, Ross learned that his ex-wife Carol was pregnant. By the end of the debut season, Carol gave birth to Ben, and Ross was forced to co-parent with his ex and her life partner, Susan. Ben only appeared a handful of times over the course of the show's ten seasons. When the character was older, Ben was recast with Sprouse, and he had more interaction with the other main cast members.
Ben disappeared from Friends just before the birth of his half-sister, Emma. His last official appearance came in season 8 with the episode titled "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel." Even after Emma was born, there was no evidence that the two children met. Ben's name was mentioned a few times throughout the rest of the series, but there were instances in which the characters forgot he existed. Ross' own father made a comment about Emma being his first grandchild despite his relation to Ben. It's assumed that Ben was busy living with Carol and Susan while the narrative shifted to Emma's birth. It's also likely that Sprouse's availability was limited due to his other acting gigs alongside his twin brother, Dylan. Some Friends viewers, however, have other explanations for Ben's disappearance.
A popular fan theory suggested that Ross lost custody of Ben leading to the character's absence from the series. Supporters of the grim theory believed that Carol pursued full custody after realizing that Ross was an unfit father. There were a number of instances that would support the theory but it seems highly improbable. If Ross truly lost custody, the topic surely would have been brought up. More than likely, the writers had to pick concise storylines and Ben didn't fit in any of them at the time.
Sprouse himself has added fuel to the speculation after answering fan questions in a video for GQ in February 2019, several years after Friends ended. When asked about his reaction about being "killed off" of Friends, Sprouse answered that he wasn't surprised that Ben wasn't involved at the end of the series because Ross was never a present father in the first place. Viewers would agree that Ross hardly spent time with his son. Whether that was a choice made by Ross or Carol was unclear, however. But from Ben's perspective, that distinction may not have mattered.
Jane Sibbett and Jessica Hecht, who played Carol and Susan on Friends, respectively, have also shared their own ideas on what happened to their on-screen son. During a London Friends Fest event, Sibbet and Hecht spoke to Comedy Central and jokingly revealed that their characters sent Ben to a British boarding school. The women also added that Carol and Susan would have also moved to the UK to adopt more children. Clearly, Ben's disappearance remains as one of Friends' biggest mysteries so it's anyone's guess as to what really happened, but the actors themselves each have conflicting theories, all of which suggest that Ross wasn't involved much in Ben's life to begin with.