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Ross Geller became the first Friends character to have a child. Ross’ ex-wife, Carol Willick, gave birth to their only child, Ben Geller, at the end of season 1. While Ben appeared fairly regularly throughout the series, he inexplicably disappeared after season 8. One Friends fan theory suggests Ross lost custody due to his erratic behavior. That theory does make a lot of sense. Still, a different fan theory suggests Ross abandoned his oldest child, and Janice might have subtly hinted at it in the season 8 finale. That theory holds water, too.

Ross Geller’s son, Ben, disappeared after season 8 of the series 

The birth of Ben Geller was a highlight of season 1 of Friends. Ben’s birth wasn’t the only mention of him, though. Ben was factored into Ross’ life in a really big way through the show’s first several seasons. He had custody of him regularly, discussed him openly with his family and friends, and factored him into his life plan with Rachel Green. 

That all changed in season 8. Ben went from being a part of the family to never being seen again. He wasn’t even brought in to meet his new half-sister, Emma Geller. So, what happened? More than one Friends fan theory has emerged to explain Ben’s disappearance, and while both have merit, one seems more likely than the other. 

Fans have a theory that Ross lost custody because of his erratic behavior

In 2016, Glamour noted that a Reddit user had developed a theory that could explain Ben’s sudden disappearance. According to the user, Carol, seeing Ross grow more and more erratic, fought to keep Ben away from him. 

Ross Geller, Ben Geller and Rachel Green in "The One with the Truth About London"
Ross Geller, Ben Geller and Rachel Green | NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The theory does have some merit. Ross’ behavior became stranger and stranger as the series progressed. He went from a levelheaded, responsible adult in the show’s first season to temperamental and ego-driven after season 5. A court case regarding custody would take a while, and it might not have been something the pals openly discussed. They, too, seemed to recognize that Ross appeared to unravel before their very eyes. There is one major issue with the theory. Even if the friends didn’t mention it, we think a custody battle would have gotten at least a mention from Ross. 

Chandler Bing’s ex-girlfriend might have explained Ben’s departure in a more subtle way 

If Ross did lose custody of Ben for his erratic behavior, we think that would have come up in the show. At the very least, it feels like a missed opportunity to see more of Ross’ emotional unraveling. Another fan theory seems a bit more plausible. Another Friends fan theory suggests Ross largely abandoned his son when Rachel Green got pregnant. The idea is built on Janice’s comment in the season 8 episode, “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby.” 


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In the episode, Rachel and Janice unknowingly find themselves giving birth simultaneously. Janice remarks that her first child barely sees her father because he has a new wife and family. She said, “I’m lucky if my kid gets to spend the weekend with her father and the twins and little Ms. New Boobs.” 

While Janice was speaking of her own experience, it could explain what happened with Ben. Ben did see Ross regularly until Rachel got pregnant, and then he inexplicably disappeared. The timing seems to work, too. Ben was last seen in the episode 12 of season 8. Ross finds out about the pregnancy about six episodes before. While we’ll never get the answer, the abandonment theory appears more likely than the theory that Carol actively kept Ben away from Ross. Some fans argue that Janice’s speech might have been a well-placed but subtle hint.